Longtime Arlington water aerobics instructor is at home in the pool

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information A closer look To learn more about the water aerobics classes at the Hugh Smith Recreation Center indoor pool, call 817-275-0513 or visit www.naturallyfun.org. Classes cost $5 each or eight sessions for $32, 12 sessions for $42 or 24 sessions for $72. An annual facility card is required.

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Pumping her arms and legs as she paces back and forth along the pool deck, 81-year-old water aerobics instructor Samantha Sexson encourages her students to keep moving.

With tunes like Earth Angel playing in the background, the group of senior men and women mimic Sexson’s movements as they exercise their aches away in the Hugh Smith Recreation Center indoor swimming pool.

An Arthritis Foundation-certified aquatic program instructor, Sexson has taught water aerobics at the east Arlington recreation center for 15 years. Many of her students have joined the low-impact aerobics program after undergoing surgeries or at their doctor’s recommendation as a way to manage arthritis pain, she said.

Sexson, who said she feels more like she is 65, attributes her own health and fitness to years of exercise, good nutrition and her lifelong love of swimming.

“I’ve never stopped exercising,” Sexson said. “You have to be loyal to yourself.”

Nothing is more satisfying, she said, than seeing her students — some of whom use walkers to get around — improve their flexibility and balance through the classes and find that they experience less pain.

Delano Roberson, 80, said she has participated in the class for more than 15 years because of knee pain. Roberson, who underwent knee surgery about eight years ago, said she exercises often in the pool to avoid needing to rely on a cane or walker.

“I can really tell the difference if I don’t come,” she said. “It’s good exercise, and we have lots of fun with each other.”

Sexson’s love for swimming began as a child in Long Island, N.Y.

“I lived in the water. We went to the beach every day. I became a fish,” she joked.

After graduating high school in 1950, Sexson moved to Florida where she transformed from a mere fish to an enchanting mermaid.

For four years, Sexson performed underwater ballet and 100-foot dives among the alligators and fish at Weeki Wachee Springs, a popular tourist spot on Florida’s Gulf Coast. There she dazzled audiences with stunts such as drinking soda pop and eating bananas underwater.

“I was a show-off,” said Sexson, who grew up wanting to be either an actress or a nun. “ This was show business. It was great for me.”

After leaving her fins and her fans behind, Sexson has spent most of her life teaching swim lessons and instructing aerobics classes while working at various other jobs.

She said she considers the men and women who take her class to be her friends and not just her students. That’s why she organizes monthly gatherings to celebrate members’ birthdays and other outings to try new restaurants.

When someone misses a few classes, Sexson is likely to give them a call or send an email to check up on them.

“She is so personable with her customers,” said Olivia Ramos, aquatics program coordinator for the Arlington Parks and Recreation Department. “She is superenergetic and passionate about what she does.”

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock

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