Monday, August 27, 2007

Take the plunge

26 Aug 2007, ST

Aquatic exercise can help to strengthen muscles and burn calories

ATLANTA - Whether you swim like a fish or sink like a rock, you can shape your body in a pool of water. Just get in and get moving.

Studies indicate that walking, jogging and other movements in at least waist-deep water strengthen and stretch muscles.

Exercises performed against the natural, gentle resistance of water also define ab and back muscles and stabilise the lower back.

Water's buoyancy causes less stress on joints and supports weak or injured muscles, so doctors often recommend it as therapy for people with chronic illnesses and arthritic conditions who need to increase their range of motion and develop balance and stability.

Buoyancy also reduces or eliminates the pain caused by moving against the resistance of gravity. 'A lot of people forget the benefits of water,' says Christie Stewart, GIT Fit director at Georgia Tech's Campus Recreation Center, which offers shallow and deep water fitness classes.

'Younger adults (especially) believe the myth that they'll get a better workout on land, but water workouts burn a lot of calories and produce a good workout.'

According to the Aquatic Exercise Association, 400 to 500 calories are burned in a one-hour water fitness class. Actual amounts depend on your weight, length of limbs, speed and intensity of your movements and depth and temperature of the water.

While some experts argue that water exercise alone does not yield significant weight loss, most agree it burns calories and tones muscle.

Because the movements are easy, and the water relaxing, you tend to move for longer periods of time and reap more benefits from exercise.

'A calorie is a calorie, so it doesn't matter where it comes from,' says Walter Thompson, professor of kinesiology (human movement) and health at Georgia State.

Georgia Tech water fitness instructor Georgia Braxton says: 'It's both a mental and physical break. You can lose inches and inhibitions.'

A nonswimmer, Braxton wore a life jacket during the first week as a water fitness student.

Two years later, her fear of water is gone - although she still does not swim - and so are inches off her body. Her dress size dropped from size 10 to size 4.

Of her fear of water, she says: 'If I overcame it, then anybody can.'



Why water?

Buoyancy: The 'light touch' allows people to do exercises they may find difficult on land. Ninety per cent of your body is buoyant when you are in the water up to your neck, so you do not hit the floor as hard. No pounding or jarring.

Resistance: This is a continual force against every move you make, 12 to 14 times more than on land. Resistance does not allow for sudden body movements.

Cooling effects: Water disperses heat more efficiently, so there is less chance of overheating. The water continuously cools the body.

Exercise in water is cooler and more comfortable than it is on land.

Source: United States Water Fitness Association


Tips for safe and enjoyable workouts

# Buddy up. Try to find a partner to join you. If you're alone, make sure someone else is nearby in case of an emergency.

# Don't drink alcohol before. It impairs your balance, coordination and judgment, and alters your body's physiological response to exercise.

# Wait after eating. Postpone your workout for two to three hours after a big meal. Delay at least one hour before a light workout.

# Warm up. Begin with a jog or bounce, bending your knees then straightening.

# Breathe well. Inhale at the height of the jump and exhale at the lowest point near the water to prevent swallowing water.

# Check bottom. To avoid blisters on your toes or feet, wear water-training shoes or make sure the pool surface is smooth.

# Begin slow. Increase the pace of movements and height of jumps gradually. Listen to your body and slow down if necessary.

Source: The Complete Waterpower Workout Book by Lynda Huey and Robert Forster

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