As an avid swimmer who has been spending about 14 hours in the swimming pool per week, I have some insights and learnings to share. Swimming pool exercises give measurable improvement in physical and mental health to senior citizens, obese persons, patients recovering from paralytic strokes and spinal injuries, and even children with low self-esteem, body-image issues, bad posture, and learning disorders. The swimming pool has immense use as a place for therapeutic and rehabilitation exercises, as well as tremendous self-improvement, whether you are able to swim, or otherwise. For people who are weak, obese, arthritic, aged, etc. doing exercises on land can quite easily cause painful muscle pulls or joint injuries. However, doing the same exercises in the swimming pool is easy and painless, because water supports the body weight and also the weight of the limb being exercised. The below-mentioned exercises – which can all be practiced in the shallow end, start showing measurable results within a few days. Whether you are a normal sedentary person, or someone with disabilities and/or age-related disorders, you can actually feel a very large improvement within a couple of weeks!
Eight Benefits of exercises in the shallow end of the pool:
- Stretching. One may get an excellent hip, calf and hamstring stretch standing in the shallow end of the pool. This is possible with legs spread out at the pool bottom, or alternatively with one leg raised to the edge of the pool.
- Strengthening. Various leg, arm and torso movements can be performed against water resistance, to strengthen groups of muscles such as abdomen, back, sides, hip, front, back, insides and outsides of thighs, chest, shoulders, biceps,triceps and front and back of forearm, and neck muscles. Water exercises work regardless of the strength or weakness of the muscles or of the person exercising.
- Increasing the angle of spread of less-mobile joints. Due to years or decades of disuse, joints lose their full angle of movement, and most sedentary people are able to use a very limited range of their joint movements. Limited joint mobility also causes bad posture and muscle adhesions, causing chronic fatigue, irritability, and continuing or intermittent aches and pains.Many chronic aches and pains are a side-effect of such limited joint mobility, and painkillers provide only a temporary respite in such cases. By extending the range of movement with the support of water, it is possible to achieve a better posture within a few days, and get permanent relief from chronic fatigue, aches and pains.
- Deeper breathing, better lung capacity and relief from chronic asthma. In the course of our normal sedentary lives, we use only a small portion of our lung capacity. Even running and climbing stairs exercises only the upper one-third of our lung capacity, as we tend to expand our chests and breathe more deeply. However, the lowest one-third of our lung capacity i.e. the capacity to deeply exhale and empty our lungs completely, is generally neglected, even by active people. It is possible to develop this lung capacity -- the power to empty your lungs completely – in a water-assisted way in a swimming pool.
- Kinesthetic sense – spatial awareness of what your limbs and various parts of your body are doing. Water is a constant source of feedback, and every movement that you make gives you a sensation of pulling or pushing against water, or alternatively, gliding through water without resistance. Performing various exercises and movements can give you a better sense of your body within a few days.
- Losing inches without losing weight. People who go on diets for weight-loss often feel hungry throughout the day, and therefore tend to give up or cheat on their diets. Sometimes, even bariatric surgery fails to yeild adequate weight-loss, and the loss of ability to eat normally causes depression and other health complications. With water-exercises, one starts toning up the body and losing several inches from the hips, waist, thighs, shoulders, upper arms etc. while losing only a couple of kilograms of weight! For many people who are looking for fitness without necessarily losing weight, water exercises is a wonderful thing!
- Getting rid of excess water-retention in the legs, belly and all over the body. Anybody who is suffering from fluid-retention in the feet, calves etc. should consider this: they can shed the excess water from their body within half an hour of getting into the pool, by engaging in only moderate activity! This has amazing effects on your health in the immediate run, as well as in the long run.
- Discovering your "super-powers" in water. It is falsely believed that all human beings float. The fact is that some people float very easily, while others can sink effortlessly to the pool bottom. This depends on the specific gravity of the body i.e. its mass relative to its volume. Many obese people will be pleasantly surprised to find that they float very easily, and this makes learning swimming unusually easy for them. Many plump people can master basic-level swimming within a few minutes of getting into a pool for the first time in their lives! For the others, who may be thin or dense, the ability to sink easily, and therefore, to cut through water effortlessly, can be a novel experience. Quite a few thin or muscular people find that they are natural-born underwater swimmers, and it takes only a few minutes to master underwater moves!
The best thing about swimming-pool exercises, stretching and physiotherapy is that it is very enjoyable, and you can go on for a couple of hours without fatigue.
Next time, I shall write about what special activities can be done in the deep end of the swimming pool, besides of course, diving and swimming.
These things are easy to self-learn after getting some initial lessons and tips from a friend. If you wish to learn these exercises, feel free to call or email, and discuss it with me!