Begin by walking back and forth across the shallow end of the pool. For additional resistance and toning, swing your arms back and forth through the water as you walk.
Land flat on your feet. For maximum traction, wear water shoes.
KEEP YOUR BACK STRAIGHT
Tighten your abdominal muscles as you walk, to avoid leaning too far forward or to the side.
Stay cool in the pool with water exercise
Gentle motion improves fitness
If you’re looking to get fit with minimal wear and tear on your joints, the local swimming pool is the perfect destination.
“I've had so many patients with chronic pain and arthritis who have done so wonderfully with water exercise over the years,” noted Sandy Lehn, manager of Therapy Services in St. Anthony’s Acute Rehab department and a former assistant professor at Saint Louis University.
“The buoyancy of the water acts to support their joints and allows them to do strengthening and conditioning exercises,” Lehn said. “When using the parallel bars, some patients with spinal cord injuries cannot stand against gravity. In the water we can get them so that they are floating on their backs, kicking with their legs, and strengthening their core abdominal and back muscles. They become stronger in the pool and are able to stand in the parallel bars to begin walking. It’s amazing.
“I'm sold on water exercise,” Lehn added. “It's a great way to start out on an exercise program if you are weak or you need to work on aerobic conditioning.”
Can’t swim? No problem! All you need is waist-high water.
Water is a pleasant environment, which can lead to longer workouts than with a land-based exercise program, said Amber O'Donnell, staff physical therapist at St. Anthony’s Sports Therapy & Physical Therapy Service. Water also allows older people, who have a difficult time regulating their body temperatures, to exercise without the risk of becoming overheated.
“Water's buoyancy decreases the load on a person’s joints, so arthritic patients can enjoy muscle and joint relaxation in warm water,” O'Donnell said. “And water adds resistance, so muscles can be strengthened further by using weights, kickboards or foam cylinders.”
All sorts of nifty gadgets are available to help you make the most of your water workouts:
Using water weights or foam barbells in each hand, raise your forearms to the level of the water, then turn over the weights so that the palms of your hands face the bottom of the pool. Push your hands down until your arms are straight again. Repeat 12 to 15 times.
Place a water noodle between your legs, making sure it is higher in the back than in the front, then walk or “jog” across the deep water. If you don’t know how to swim, wear a flotation vest or float belt.
Tie a water noodle into a knot around your foot, and stand with your back to the side of the pool in waist-deep water, placing your arms on the edge of the pool for stability. Straighten your leg in front of you, then flex your knee to a 90-degree position. Return to the starting position and repeat 12 to 15 times.
For information, please call our Health Access Line at 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 800-554-9550 or visit find a physician online.
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