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Aquatic Exercise
by Dr. Darrell M. Schreyer, D.C.

A new movement seems to be on the rise, that involves physical fitness, aerobic conditioning, and rehabilitation. In talking to more of my patients and observing fellow members of Gold Creek Tennis and Sports Club in Woodinville, this new fad has been around for longer than one would think. I'm talking about aquatic exercise.

Many health clubs that offer the use of pools have many time slots set aside each week for these aquatic programs, and many people are taking advantage of this. There are sessions for the very young, for the elderly, and even some for pregnant women.

It seems that interest in this area has grown because water fitness programs provide the exercise necessary to develop and maintain strength, endurance, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance. Also due to the fact that nearly all segments of the population are able to participate, regardless of age or physical condition. For this reason, many people who are not physically able to participate in land aerobics have turned to the water for an answer to their fitness needs.

Water exercise involves no repetitive jarring on the weight bearing joints of the body (hips, knees, ankles, and spine). The aqueous environment does not allow for abrupt starting and stopping or pounding on the body. The buoyancy support of water makes us roughly fifteen to twenty percent of our normal dry body weight. Therefore even people that have physical handicaps or impairments can find benefit for the rest of their body.

The warm temperature of the average indoor pool (80-86 degrees), makes it very difficult for the body to become overheated during exercise. Another positive factor is that the pressures of the water on the body helps promote a deeper ventilation of the lungs.

Probably one of the best features of utilizing the water for exercise is the fact that every movement that is accomplished under water is done under very consistent resistance. An exercise or movement in the water offers approximately ten to twelve times more resistance than that done on land. This would allow for a very demanding workout in the water if one so desired.

Aquatic training is not without possible problems, but this is a relatively short list. The most common complaint is problems that develop in the arches of the feet. This is known as plantar fascitis which can develop into a painful calcaneal (heel) spur, if left untreated.

The plantar fascia is a large band of connective tissue located on the bottom of the foot, attaching the five toes to the heel bone. If irritated and placed under constant stress, this fascia can change to bone where it attaches to the heel and forms a painful bone spur.

This occurs when people stand, bounce, or run on the tips of their toes, like most people do, when they are in the water. Any time that the foot is lifted from the surface of the bottom of the pool, it should be replaced there. This will ensure that the plantar fascia is not under constant stretch and will not cause any injury to that area.

As with all exercise programs, discipline is the key to success. The best way to achieve this success is to enroll in a water exercise class offered at an aquatic facility. For those of you who already belong to a health club with a swimming pool, check the schedule to see if any special classes are being offered. I think that you will be surprised to find that there are classes offered, I know that I was. 

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