March 27, 2009

Physical Fun in the Water

By Lona Callavera

San Diego is known for its great annual weather. With the summer months fast approaching, swimming can provide a fun, affordable, healthy, and cool family activity for individuals of all ages. Chronic diseases are on the rise and the obesity epidemic is reaching astronomical levels. Recent reports suggest that forty percent of California Latino adults are overweight, with nearly thirty percent of us being obese. Swimming is a great way for children, adults, and older adults to get our needed physical activity. Strength-based activities, or resistance training, and cardiovascular activities are both important components to a physical activity routine. Resistance training helps the body build and strengthen muscles, while cardiovascular training helps keep the heart healthy. Swimming combines these two important types of physical activity, creating an efficient entire body workout.

Swimming and doing physical activity in the water may be especially beneficial if you have already existing health conditions, such as obesity, overweight, diabetes, arthritis, or having an injury, that limit your ability to engage in regular physical activity. You weigh less in the water and, therefore, are able to perform many activities that would normally be too difficult for you.

The water’s buoyancy acts as a cushion for the body’s joints and makes for low impact physical activity. In addition, movement in water allows for much more resistance than any basic land-based physical activity and burns more calories. This allows for an all-encompassing body workout at a low impact level. If you are only able to perform lower activity levels, walking, creating waves with your arms in the water, doing leg lifts, water jogging, or simply playing with your children in the water are great ways to get your daily physical activity.

Swimming is also a great alternative for pregnant women and exposes the fetus to more oxygen. You may also enjoy water activities because you don’t noticeably sweat and you stay cool. Many community pools offer aqua-aerobic classes for adults at all levels of fitness. Newly remodeled Vista Terrace Park in San Ysidro has just opened enrollment for their aquatic classes. For information on these classes, go to http://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/aquatics/vista terrace.shtml or call (619) 424-0469.

Children can easily get their dose of daily physical activity at the pool. Swimming also provides children with the opportunity to improve their social skills, increase their confidence by learning new skills, and foster independence and responsibility. Many community pools offer swim lessons or public swim hours, which can serve as generally safe and supervised activities for children during the summer months.

Thirty minutes a day of moderate exercise can greatly reduce your family’s risk of being effected by chronic diseases. Here are some pool friendly tips to get you started towards a healthier you:

1) If you have access to a public or private swimming pool, you can begin a water workout with just a few minutes a day. Many of the exercises you do on land can be done in the water with added benefits. Simply walking or running forward and backwards in the water can be a great start.

2) Holding on to the side of the pool with one hand and doing leg lifts frontwards, sidewards, and backwards, and/or lifting your knees one by one to your chest are exercises that strengthening your muscles.

3) Many public pool facilities have a supply of styrofoam water weights. These weights are designed to create resistance when used in the water. Traditional weight lifting exercises like tricep extensions, chest presses, and bicep curls can be done with less risk for injury. These weights can also be purchased at sporting good stores.

4) For an advanced level water workout, you can use a water noodle. To give your legs a workout, wrap the noodle behind your back or place it in between your legs (like you are sitting on it) and do a jogging motion.

5) Water physical activity is a great way to catch up with friends while working out, so find a family member or friend to keep you company. You can also bring your children along and sign them up for swim lessons, or allow them to play with other children.

This public health message is brought to you by the San Diego Prevention Research Center and “Familias Sanas y Activas.” For more information about free physical activity programs or public pool facilities in South Bay, please contact Sara Solai-mani at: 619-594-2965.

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