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Massage Today
December, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 12

Swimming: Enjoying Summer Fun in the Winter

By Sharon Puszko, PhD, LMT

Now that winter is here, most of us who live north of Missouri are preparing to spend more time indoors. Some of us - myself included - do this more reluctantly than others. During the winter, we need to be extra vigilant in finding creative ways to keep active.

For instance, putting on our winter boots and going for a hike in the snow, or going ice skating with our children. It is so easy to get in exercise without even realizing it when it is warm outside: walking with friends or swimming in the pool with your kids.

As inch upon inch of snow piles up, I find myself reminiscing about sunny days, walks along the canal, the tropical smell of sun block and swimming pools. Speaking of swimming pools, this summer was particularly memorable because of the Olympics. Watching the victories of the "Fantastic Five" and our women's relay track team was thrilling. However, the most memorable moments for me happened in the pool as I, along with most other Americans, watched anxiously to see if Michael Phelps would make history and become the world's most decorated Olympic athlete. As I think back to the Olympic games of this past summer, I am reminded that even though we cannot bask in the summer sun while it's snowing, we can still head to the pool. Most gyms and YMCA's have indoor pools, so if you belong to one, why not use it?

swimmer - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), swimming is the second most popular sports activity in the U.S. Swimming and water aerobics are also low-impact sports, making them very low risk for injury. The CDC goes on to list many other benefits of swimming and water-based exercises:

  • For people with arthritis, it improves use of affected joints without worsening symptoms.
  • People with rheumatoid arthritis have more health improvements after participating in hydrotherapy than with other activities.
  • Water-based exercise improves the use of affected joints and decreases pain from osteoarthritis.
  • For people with fibromyalgia, it can decrease anxiety and exercise therapy in warm water can decrease depression and improve mood.

Getting into the pool and trying to swim might seem intimidating for those who have never learned proper technique, or who do not swim much. The good news is, swimming classes for adults are now more popular than ever (thanks in part to Michael Phelps). In addition, there is a wealth of information on the web regarding swimming techniques. In particular, I have found the instructional videos on YouTube helpful, as well as the articles and tips on the USA Swimming website.

If swimming laps in a pool does not pique your interest, consider water aerobics. For those who love aerobics or dancing, but have joints that don't, water exercise classes are an excellent alternative. Water aerobics now seem to be offered at gyms everywhere, and range from low to high intensity, and are offered in shallow or deep water. Flotation devices are used in the deep water programs, so one does not need to be an expert swimmer to participate in these. Zumba has started an Aqua Zumba series, for those looking for a fun, low-impact, high intensity form of exercise. There are even ability and age appropriate water exercise classes approved by the Arthritis Foundation and Silver Sneakers, the national fitness program designed for senior citizens.

There is something for everyone when it comes to exercising in a pool. Hopefully, the thought of going to a pool will motivate you to remain healthy during the winter. It is important for us to stay healthy and fit so we can serve our clients to the best of our abilities. Spending time in the water energizes our bodies and minds, even in the midst of winter. So if you start to feels some of those "seasonal" blues, grab your suit, towel and a change of clothes and dive in!

Click here for more information about Sharon Puszko, PhD, LMT.


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