Get Wet, Get Fit-Joint-Friendly Exercise

Posted on September 13, 2011. Filed under: Exercise, Joints | Tags: , , , , |

swim for joint friendly exercise

By Doctor Gregory Steiner~

No, I don’t mean going to the nearest water park and sliding down the tube, though as I write this article it sure sounds good in all the heat…..

What we’re talking about is exercising in the pool, sometimes called “water aerobics,” though there is much more to water exercise then aerobics. First we had better define our terms; that word – ‘aerobics’ – goes back some years now, and was originally coined to describe exercise that particularly stresses the aerobic  energy systems of the body.  Basically this means the heart, lungs, and blood vessels, though there are more parts involved than only those. These days we mean the same thing by ‘cardio.’ You get on the stepper or bike, run or pedal away, and if you get the right intensity and time you get fitter and burn fat, and your resting heart rate starts to drop. Good and necessary stuff this cardio, but there is a reason that most gyms have TV screens in front of the cardio section!

However, cardio by itself is not complete.  Usually among keep-fit people there are three main types – the strength lovers, the endurance-cardio people, and the flexibility folks who gravitate to yoga and often Pilates.  Each of these factors is indeed important, and it’s a fine, fit individual who is simultaneously strong, flexible and who has real staying power.

There is a ‘what if’ however, and that what-it is what happens if a person has painful joints? For example, if a knee or hip is worn away, too much strength stress will hurt the joint, impact from running type motions often jars the joint, and even stretching can be limited and very painful.

That’s one important way in which water exercise comes in. You will note we didn’t use the term ‘water aerobics’ this time and here’s why.  If a water work-out program is designed well, it won’t just be working the heart and lungs, but it will also be crafted to strengthen muscles and mobilize joints.

There are levels intensity to water exercise, ranging from tame to insane….to each his or her own! On the one hand, I have had a large number of older patients who just can’t perform standard gym exercises or cardio due to structural limitation, wear and tear, or just plain old pain. They almost always perform water workouts successfully and profit very much from doing so.

At the other end of the spectrum I have known very ‘serious’ work-out people who have approached water exercise with an extreme intensity to assist their primary athletic pursuits, which have included martial arts and track and field. These people tell me they are amazed at the amount of whole-body effort then expend in a water work-out.

The way you do water exercise varies, but what often takes place is that you put on some ‘flippers, fins and water wings’ – accessories that attach to various parts of your body – and which increase the resistance of the water to any and all motions that you make. This is a unique aspect of water exercise, that no matter how and where you move you are under constant resistance, so the whole body gets a new kind of workout. If you move fast, you get a lot of resistance, if you push less hard, less resistance. And, water being water, your body can move in and direction possible as it is not confined to the angles of the machine.

Easy on the joint, hard on the muscles and lungs – try water exercise for a joint-healthy change of pace.

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