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For gentler aerobics, just add water.

Before jogging and walking gave it a run for the money, swimming was America's favorite form of exercise. Now exercising in the water is making a strong comeback, even for people who cannot swim. At pools throughout the country, programs with names like Aquacize and Aquamotion, water aerobics and aquarobics, aquadance and just plain aquatic exercise are finding a fast-growing audience. In many areas, there are waiting lists to join classes, which are limited by the number of year-round centers and qualified instructors. When the weather is warm, beaches can offer at least one major water-based activity, aerobic walking in thigh-deep water. And outdoor pools with a shallow end can accommodate the full spectrum of water aerobics.

Why exercise in water?

Many people have heard of low-impact aerobics. Well, aerobics in water is virtually no-impact. Unlike pavements, tracks, and dance floors, water is a very forgiving medium, and although exercising in water is not totally without risk, the chances of bone and joint injuries are minimal.

The natural buoyancy of water reduces body weight to only 10 percent of what it is on land. Jogging on land subjects joints to a force three times the body's weight, and walking results in a force one and a half times your weight. Such pressures, repeated often and long enough, can result in permanent injuries, especially to the knees, as many runners know.

At the same time, water offers four times the resistance of air, toning and strengthening muscles through less intensive exercise than would be required, say, with calisthenics or weight-training equipment.

Water exercise also permits a more balanced workout, further reducing the risk of injuries that result from overdevelopment of some muscles with respect to their opposing muscles. Peggy Marchbanks, an exercise physiologist in Santa Barbara, California, who developed the exercise program called Aquamotion with Dr. Chris Lambert, explained that in water, people can work on muscle groups, like the hamstrings in the back of the thigh, the muscles on the inner and outer sides of the thigh, and the gluteal muscles in the buttocks, that are hard to strengthen in the usual activities on land.

Dr. Lambert, an emergency room physician at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and medical director of Target Fitness, a consulting firm, added that aquatic exercise provides a workout for both the upper and lower body. This is especially helpful to women, who tend to lack strength and tone in muscles above the waist.

Exercising in water is also often more comfortable than exercising on land. Water at temperatures in the low 80s, as most pools should be, enables you to stay cool while working out, no matter how hot the outdoor air. You sweat, but you don't notice it.

Who can benefit?

Although once considered a wimpy form of exercise, water exercise can help even highly conditioned athletes maintain and extend their degree of fitness, Ms. Marchbanks said.

It is considered ideal for people with joint and limb disorders and injuries, especially people with arthritis for whom exercise on land can further traumatize ailing joints. After surgery for a career-threatening knee injury, the New York Knicks basketball star Bernard King was advised to work out in the water to maintain his muscle strength while his knee healed. Though a nonswimmer, he quickly overcame his fear of water for the sake of his game. After two years of intensive rehabilitation that included water exercise, he is a top scorer once again--for the Washington Bullets.

Dvera Berson, a 78-year-old former New Yorker who had been crippled by painful arthritis, devised her own water exercise program during a three-month vacation in Florida. Although she had no special training in physical therapy, the regime ultimately gave her a new life free of pain and disability. She describes the workout, which she does daily, in her book Pain-free Arthritis (with Sander Roy), and in a three-hour, two-tape video, "The Berson Program for PainFree Arthritis."

Water exercise is also considered ideal for people who are overweight. In addition to providing buoyancy and cooling, water reduces the risk of injuries that can afflict joints and limbs stressed by overweight conditions. Working out in water is likewise helpful for pregnant women, who may easily tire and become overheated doing vigorous exercise on land.

What to look for:

The pool. The location and hours should make it possible for you to get to it three or more times a week if you want water exercise to be your main fitness activity. If you are injured or disabled, be sure the physical layout, including showers and locker room, is accessible and, if needed, there is an attendant to help you.

The pool should have a designated area for exercisers to avoid run-ins with lap and recreational swimmers. Most programs are held at the shallow end, which is especially important if you are a nonswimmer. Ideally, for a vigorous water workout, the water temperature should be 80 to 84 degrees (84 to 86 for people with arthritis).

The program. If you are using water exercise simply for muscle toning and strengthening, almost any program can help. But if you are also seeking to promote cardiovascular fitness, it is important to find a program that includes a 20-minute segment of continuous exercise at a level that increases your heart rate. The program should have a warm-up and cool-down period of 5 to 10 minutes and enough variety to sustain your interest.

Equipment. No special equipment is needed, Ms. Marchbanks said. Some programs use balls, weights, hand fans, plastic bottles, boots, and gloves that increase the resistance of the water; these can intensify the workout, but can also increase the risk of injury, she said.

The instructor. Dr. Lambert said aquatics teachers should be experienced at teaching exercise classes and should have some training in basic first aid or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Ms. Marchbanks looks for instructors who, in addition to being well-versed in basic physiology and movement, are "caring, open, enthusiastic, easy to approach, and willing to provide individual help if needed."

Arm and Leg Stretch

This is an overall stretch for general body conditioning. Stand by the wall in waist-deep water and grasp the pool edge with your right hand. If you can, raise your right foot up to rest on the edge, in front of your hand. Otherwise, place your right foot at a lower point on the wall for a comfortable extension. Reach with your left arm overhead in an arc toward your right side. Hold the stretch, return to your starting position, and reverse.

Water Walking/jogging

Water walkingljogging immediately adjusts your body to the temperature of the water and its resistance, helping you to warm up.

Standing in chest-deep water, walk, then jog through the water forward, backward, diagonally, and in a circle. You can also bob' in place, with a half-knee bend.

Move your arms back and forth in a pumping action underwater, coordinating them with your walk or jog, as if you were on land.

Overhead Extension

This warm-up develops a good streamlined body position.

Extend your arms overhead, upper arms covering your ears, elbows straight, thumbs touching. Slowly stretch from side to side at the waist, keeping your arms straight throughout.

Aqua Jumping Jacks

Start in chest-deep water with legs together and arms at your sides. Jump up, extending arms to the side. As you come down, your legs separate into a 'V' position, your arms on the water's surface. Jump again, bringing arms down and feet together.

Runners Leg Stretch

This exercise stretches the large muscles of the legs, e.g., the back of the leg, the calf, and the front thigh muscles. These are the muscles most vulnerable to cramping. Hold the edge of the pool ledge with your left hand. Place the right foot straight behind you, heel touching the bottom of the pool. Bend the left knee and lean forward while stretching the extended leg. Change leg positions and repeat.

Runners Leg Stretch

Holding on to the pool edge for support, lift your right leg and bend it behind you as if folding it against your body. Grasp your right foot with your right hand, and pull the foot toward your right buttock. Release your foot to a standing position. Repeat on the left side.
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Title Annotation:doing exercises in water
Author:Brody, Jane E.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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