Magazine article Ebony

Getting in the Swim of Things: Is Swimming the Best Exercise. (Body Talk)

Magazine article Ebony

Getting in the Swim of Things: Is Swimming the Best Exercise. (Body Talk)

Article excerpt

SOME walk, some run, but the best exercise of all, some say, is swimming, which provides the same results as walking and running, without adding stress to knees, ankles, legs and the back. A major benefit of swimming is the near weightlessness, which can help swimmers strengthen their shoulders and abdominal muscles. The exercise also strengthens the heart and helps decrease problems associated with diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and allergies.

Alicia Samuels, a New York University dentistry student, is one of many Blacks who swim regularly. She also works out with weights, does aerobics and uses cardiovascular machines. "But swimming," says the 21-year-old, "is the best total body workout."

Swimming also is, according to a number of professionals, one of the best health workouts. People who can't do jarring aerobic exercises can still swim because it's a low-impact exercise that's safe, even for pregnant women, doctors say.

Toby DeMott, a physical therapist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, says many of the patients she works with in water have arthritis, spinal cord injuries, low back pain, or are recuperating from a stroke. In addition to having a water therapy session with her, DeMott tells these patients to swim at least an hour a week on their own.

Water therapy helps in two ways. First, the buoyancy of water helps people move and walk better. "In water up to your chest, you only weigh 20 percent of your normal body weight," DeMott says. "In water you can move your limbs a lot easier. It's nice to unload your joints by being in the water."

The second way water helps is by offering resistance. "Sometimes we'll have somebody work on their limbs by moving their arms and legs as quickly as possible," DeMott says. "The quicker you move, the more resistance you're going to get from the water."

Because water is buoyant and resistant, swimming is like doing two exercises at once, says Dwayne Lindo, a swimming instructor at the Harlem YMCA. Raising and lowering your arms is similar to doing arm curls and arm presses in a gym without using two different machines, he says.

Kevin Wiggins, a former college football player and previous contender in the Mr. Connecticut Bodybuilding Championship, enjoys the buoyancy and resistance he gets from swimming an hour a day, three days a week. He moves through water with less pain and more range of motion than he usually feels when he's walking. The 48-year-old salesman made swimming his main form of exercise after finding out six years ago that he had arthritis and deteriorated cartilage between his right hip and leg bone. "Swimming is a great exercise for people who are getting older," says Wiggins.

And for people who are younger. …

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