Water Wonderland

Susan Dawson-Cook

If health issues and joint pain are leading to long days lounging in a recliner, there’s a better option. The Arthritis Foundation recommends warm water exercise for pain management and improved health. The water’s buoyancy supports the body’s weight, reducing stress on joints and reducing pain and providing resistance to tone muscle. If you’re a swimmer, that’s great, but if not, myriad water activities require no swimming ability or the head to be submerged.

A repertoire of activities, simple equipment (I recommend a noodle and buoyant hand weights) and a swimsuit and towel are all that’s needed to start. Here’s why you should jump into the pool nearest you today.

1. The stabilizing environment of the water will make it easier and safer to practice balance.

2. The water is gentle on joints and warm water is therapeutic for pain. Choose the warmer SaddleBrooke pools if you have arthritis or other chronic pain.

3. Warm water loosens joints, enabling you to more easily move them through their full range of motion. The more joints are gently rotated in different directions, the more easily they will move out of the water. The water is also a great place to stretch.

4. Aerobic activity in the water can be done with minimal impact and trauma to the joints.

Now that I’ve sold you on the benefits (I hope), let’s discuss activities that can easily be implemented in the water.

1. Water walking (in waist to chest deep water). Be creative; walk forward, walk backward, kick legs forward, side step, grapevine, etc.

2. Range-of-motion exercises holding on to the side. With the outside leg extended in front, circle in one direction, the opposite direction and kick forward and back. Now extend leg out to side and do circles, then sweep leg out and in.

3. Stretches holding on to the side. One favorite is to hold the wall with both hands and walk feet up the wall, gently bending knees, stopping to stretch the backs of the legs by extending them until the stretch is felt, then walking legs apart into a straddle (keep spine in neutral) and lunging over to one side and then the other to stretch the inner thighs.

4. Suspended activities. This includes jogging wearing an aqua jogger vest or reclining or sitting on a noodle and doing leg movements such as bicycle pedaling, cross country skiing and jumping jacks.

There are so many pool activities available I could fill pages with exercise descriptions. Consult with an aquatic specialist if you need help getting started. A soothing environment for exercise, the water is an ideal place to strengthen heart and muscle, improve flexibility and make every day a more comfortable experience.

Susan is an AFAA certified group exercise instructor and personal trainer at Vital Moves (850-4089). A nationally ranked U.S. Masters swimmer who hides her gills under a swimsuit, she’s been teaching swimming and aquatic exercise since 1977.