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Swimming For Health And Fitness
February 22, 2011 - Dalia Jakubauskas
Joy! The weather has finally warmed to the kind of balmy temperatures we are supposed to get in Southwest Florida for this time of year. That means, taking advantage of everything outdoors including getting back in the water again. Whether in a pool or in open water, swimming is a great fitness choice for just about everyone, especially for those with physical limitations. It’s a terrific whole-body, low-impact (or no impact) exercise for people with arthritis, musculoskeletal or weight limitations. Water accommodates the fit as well as the unfit. Elite athletes use water to rehabilitate injuries or cross train. Those with arthritis or disabilities use water to improve their fitness levels and to relieve pain and stiffness. Swimming has also been known to help people with asthma, as it is believed that warm humid air surrounding a pool causes less irritation to air passages. Water cushions fragile bones that might be injured by the impact of land exercises. Immersed to the waist, the body bears just 50% of its weight. Immersed to the chest it bears 25-35% and just 10% when working in neck deep water. Swimming works all the major muscle groups including the back, shoulders, legs, hips, glutes and abdominals. Water work is both a cardiovascular and strengthening exercise. If done with some effort, it can also help participants lose weight. This means interval training where you push yourself hard for short spurts then slow down to a normal pace. To truly learn to swim correctly and get the maximum benefit from the exercise, hire a swim coach or join a masters swim program. Don’t let the word “masters” intimidate you. Masters simply means that it is a program for those over 20. If you are beginner, just like any other new exercise, start slowly. Try to swim just 10 minutes. Then build up to 30-minute sessions three to five times per week. These sessions should include brief warm up and cool down periods using gentle strokes. But even if you are a poor swimmer or can’t take advantage of a swim program or coach, you can still challenge yourself in the water using vertical exercises like walking or jogging in waste deep water. Walk or jog full lengths of a pool or practice in open water for 25 yards or so, repeating the lengths until you’ve reached your 30-minute goal. Utilizing pool toys like kickboards or webbed neoprene gloves available in most sporting goods stores also helps novices get comfortable in the water. These types of water toys also offer extra resistance to help build muscle strength. Most community pools will also offer water aerobic classes designed for both beginners and advanced exercisers. Participants build camaraderie and muscle while exercising to music and under the tutelage of expert instructors. Some make the mistake of thinking these classes are for wimps. Quite the opposite. I have found myself huffing and puffing next to people 20 years my senior who attend classes regularly. All you really need o get in shape is a bathing suit and a desire to take advantage of Florida’s glorious warm weather. So enjoy the sunshine and the water. Hit the pool or the beach and look even better in that bathing suit during the weeks to come.
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