Swimming is fun way to fitness

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By now, we all know that exercise helps us remain healthy and that we should all implement some kind of exercise into our lives. The question is no longer “Why exercise?” The question is “How?”

We all face the challenge of discerning which form of exercise would be best for us. There are so many packaged programs out there these days. Do I go for the Insanity workout? Do I Jazzercise? Do I do Pilates? Should I try boot camp or TRX? Should I Zumba?

There are many choices and a lot of good ones at that.

I advocate for keeping it simple. I would like to argue the case for exercising in water.

There need not be any “program” or “package.” You can choose to use equipment or not. You may listen to music or not. How about simply exercising in the water?

Water exercise seems to have been sidelined as an activity that is appropriate for children or seniors. This is absolutely true. Water is a gentle and playful element. The beauty of water is that it is buoyant and supportive. These qualities work wonders for folks wanting to protect their joints from harsh jarring and pounding on cement or jumping around gym floors.

Water’s buoyancy is also quite playful for children learning to swim. It supports them in their efforts to move gracefully forward through the water or float gently on top of it.

However, it would be remiss to ignore the resistant quality of water and simply dismiss it as “too easy.” The beauty of water is that it gives as good as it gets.

Water is 800 times denser than air. Pushing water during an aerobics workout is more difficult than pushing air on land. Yet, the joints are not taking a beating.

Swimming laps is an overall body workout where no muscle is left dormant. Very few exercises are capable of working the entire body at the same time. In addition, stroking through the water employs all three components of exercise: strength, flexibility, and endurance.

I have the pleasure of working with two male athletes who are excellent runners and cyclists. They both want to move into triathlons but need to improve their swimming to compete.

Both men, in peak condition, agree that the swimming portion of their triathlon training is more challenging than any other component. They are more exhausted after 30 minutes of swimming than they are from an hour of running or cycling. Perhaps this is why the swimming portion is the shortest in triathlons. It is the most exhausting.

So I invite those of you still grappling with the “How?’ question of exercise to join me in the pool. You can simply swim laps, try water aerobics, or enjoy water walking, running and interval training. I guarantee you will get an overall balanced workout without all the confusing hype.

In the simple words of Dory the fish in the Disney’s movie “Finding Nemo,” “... just keep swimming — just keep swimming.”

Rebecca Thorpe is the aquatics director at the Walla Walla YMCA.

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