Friday, August 4, 2017

Take the Plunge

You can do more than just beat the heat the next time you go to the pool. Whether you swim or do aquatic exercises, working out in water improves strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health.

Water provides more resistance than air, allowing you to exercise at a higher intensity with less wear and tear on the body and less risk of injury. That’s great for people with joint pain.

Swimming is a perfect water workout, according to the American Council on Exercise. Doing a half hour of the front crawl at an easy pace can burn about 250 calories, depending on your weight. If you pick up the pace, you can burn about 400 calories in the same amount of time.

If you’re new to swimming, start with 5 to 10 minute sessions. As you build stamina, add more minutes. Mixing up your strokes can keep your routine form getting boring as well as work different muscles.

For instance, the breaststroke is great for chest and shoulder muscles. The front crawl and backstroke target many muscles in the back. And the butterfly does a great job of engaging core muscles.

Not a strong swimmer? Consider a few swim lessons or find other ways to work out in the water. Take your jogging routine to the shallow end of the pool. Run in place, lifting your knees up toward the surface and pumping your arms vigorously.

If group classes are your thing, check out your Y or municipal pool. Besides water aerobics, many offer aquatic kickboxing, Pilates and even yoga.

My Take:
I have recently added swimming to my exercise regime (again). It is great cross training with all the benefits noted above.

After a long layoff, you really have to start over and rebuild your stamina. Fortunately, it returns quickly. I started with 500 yards and built that up to a mile over the course of a couple of weeks. What began as eight minutes of exercise now takes 30 minutes just as this article outlines.

I prefer interval training to just swimming long distance. I typically swim 200-500 yards to warm up, then switch to 100 yard repeats. I give myself two minutes to complete 100 yards, including the rest interval. The goal is to swim the first 3-4 easy and get about 20 seconds of rest between each repeat. Gradually, you pick up the pace, pushing harder each 100, but getting a little more rest as your times come down.

Several of the swimmers at my municipal pool now wear underwater MP3 players that integrate with their goggles. The music is conducted through the bone, so you don’t wear ear buds. I’ve yet to try a pair, but music would help the workout just like it does in running.

The Bottom Line:
Give swimming a try. In fact, give it a few weeks and you will be amazed at how quickly you improve. You’ll also be pleased with the way your body shape changes.

August 1, 2017 National Institutes of Health

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