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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Dive in . . .

If there’s an ideal exercise, swimming may be it. Not only can it work every major muscle group in your body, it provides a great cardiovascular workout and improves oxygen flow to your muscles. And unlike jogging, cycling, and running, it’s easy on your joints, so even those with leg, knee, or back problems can benefit. Pool Party for Health What makes swimming so ideal? According to an Ohio State University study, you’ll get the same benefits from swimming as you get from land-based exercise with significantly less muscle pain. Under water your body weighs one tenth of its weight on land, which allows your joints to relax while your muscles do all the work. Time in a pool can also help you heal. Those who undergo surgery and spend time in a pool reduce their healing time, and health practitioners in many fields recognize swimming as an excellent form of rehabilitation. Swimming is also great for pregnant women, strengthening the abdomen and shoulders while lowering blood pressure and reducing joint stiffness associated with pregnancy. Diving In: Getting Started Regardless of your age or fitness level, it’s easy to start a swimming regimen. First, find a place to swim! Most cities have municipal pools with adult swim times; check your local Parks and Recreation for options. If you live near a lake or ocean, you can often swim for free. And many YMCAs, colleges and universities, and local gyms have pools. Next, set a schedule and stick to it. Doctors recommend exercising for at least 30 minutes five days a week or more. For people who feel they are too busy to commit to a certain time each day, this may mean splitting up that 30 minutes into a 10 minute morning walk and a 20 minute evening swim, still reaping the benefits of regular exercise. Make plans to swim with a friend; having an exercise buddy can be the best way to stay motivated. Maximizing Your Exercise Get the most out of your time in the water by alternating your strokes between freestyle, breaststroke and backstroke, which will engage all major muscle groups. If these strokes sound alien to you or you just can’t remember that swim lesson you took as a kid, seek out coaches at your local pool or fitness club. Don’t be afraid to take a lesson to ensure proper form, which will help you feel confident in swimming and succeed in your fitness plan without unnecessary injury. Exercise or Meditation? You don’t need to practice like an Olympian to reap the benefits of swimming. Treading water or simply floating can help you relax and lower your blood pressure. Fitness, ultimately, should be fun. Many even liken swimming to meditation. The experience of submerging yourself in water can help move your mind away from your day’s stresses and leave you cleansed for whatever comes next in your schedule. …But Beware of ChlorineFresh lake waters call up everyone’s ideal of the perfect swimming hole. Sea beaches are a close second if one doesn’t mind rinsing off salt. But most of us more often take our aquatic selves, sports, hobbies and exercise to the nearest local pool. Do we have no choice but to trade convenience for chlorine? According to Dr. Andrew Weil, ”Chlorine disinfection of water is obsolete.” More, it’s considered by some to be a potential health hazard suspected of triggering asthma in children and associated with bladder, rectal cancer and heart diseases among adults. Even before a Belgian study published in Britain’s Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2003 showed high trichloramine levels among young swimmers and elevated levels among poolside sitters, Weil believed that just inhaling chlorine fumes posed an unhealthy irritant. “Swimming in chlorinated water can irritate your eyes and skin, as well as damage your respiratory passages and lungs,” he says. The best policy is to avoid pools that smell like chlorine. Weil’s solution for his own backyard pool is to substitute chlorine with a silver-copper ion generator. And he recommends that parents and kids lobby local officials and public pool managers to replace chlorine with safer, more modern disinfection methods. “If you or your children do use chlorinated pools, consider wearing a mask and snorkel to protect your eyes from the irritating effects of the chlorine in the water,” says Weil. ”After swimming, leave the pool area and inhale fresh air to flush the gas out of your system. Shower quickly and thoroughly to wash it off your skin.” The next time we catch a whiff of chlorine at a tap or city pool, we’ll know to pay attention to what our body’s trying to tell us. Finally science has caught up with common sense.

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