We all understand the value of getting fit and maintaining that fitness throughout our lives. When you are young and resilient that is not such a hard goal. You can incorporate fitness into your recreational activities without much difficulty. Jogging, biking, and even team sports are available for you to participate in.
Some phys-ed programs in high school concentrate on life sports––things like swimming and tennis that you will be able to participate in throughout your life. But life happens, and none of us can be at the same level of fitness forever. Sometimes it is just about our aging body, but there can be other causes that require a modification in how we work out.
Why You Stop Exercising
Maybe you incur an injury, or you are diagnosed with arthritis or fibromyalgia, or you have a surgery that temporarily stops you from exercising. Maybe you are so busy getting the kids to their activities that you neglect your own health. Now you are carrying around a few extra pounds and are having difficulty bending down to pull up your socks, and you need to take several breaks to get through mowing the lawn. It’s time to get serious about your fitness.
Your general goals will be to improve your muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance by adding low impact activities to your workout. Always warm up before you start. Stretch your muscles and move your joints. Start with your toes and work your way up. If you are going to be outside, always use sunscreen and reapply every two hours. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Dump the “no pain, no gain” theory. A little muscle soreness after exercise is acceptable, but not pain.
If you have pain, especially in your joints, stop the activity you are engaged in. Always check with your doctor before you start a new exercise program. Go slow. Build up the intensity and the time you work out very gradually. Here are 5 activities you can add to your swimming routine for a low impact workout.
1. Walking in the pool. If you have a backyard pool that you swim in frequently, change up your routine by walking in the pool. The resistance of the water against the movement of walking will give your legs a good workout while the buoyancy of the water will help prevent injury to your joints. If your pool is an above ground pool, you can walk laps or stay close to the wall and gradually increase the number of laps around the inside perimeter of your pool.
If you have an inground pool with a deep end, you will have to walk side to side. When you get good at walking in the water, try walking backward or alternate each lap. To increase the intensity of the workout and add the muscles of your upper body, swing your arms back and forth in the water as you walk. Face the palms forward to get the maximum resistance.
2. Aqua cycling. This is basically riding a stationary bike in the water. The workout is the same as you would do in a spin class. An Aquacycle is made out of marine steel that can stand up to the pool chemicals, salt, and mineral content of the water without rusting. Again, the buoyancy of the water will protect your joints, while the resistance of the water when you pedal gives the rider a high-intensity, low-impact workout.
3.Isometrics. If movement is painful for you, try isometrics. In isometrics there is no visible movement; rather, you will tense muscles and hold for several seconds and then relax. As you improve, the time you hold the tension and the number of repetitions are increased. You can do these moves in or out of the water.
Isometric shoulder extension is completed by standing with your back to a hard surface with your arms at your sides and elbows straight. Push your arms back against the wall and hold. Start out with a 5-second hold and then rest. Repeat. Gradually increase the amount of time you hold the pressure and the number of repetitions.
4. Tai Chi. Tai Chi is more than exercise. It is a state of balance and harmony between mind, body, and spirit. The practice of Tai Chi is a series of movements that are very controlled and flow one into the other. The movements are not difficult to learn, but the mastering of Tai Chi will be a lifelong endeavor. While Tai Chi appears very simple when it is observed, it is actually very complex. As you become proficient in Tai Chi, you can enter a meditative state while performing the moves.
Tai Chi is low impact, and studies have shown Tai Chi to help with improving muscle strength, flexibility, and immunity, and it relieves pain. One study showed that the improvement of balance resulted in a substantial decrease in falls in a group who learned Tai Chi. Tai Chi can improve the quality of your life by decreasing stress while bringing your body, mind, and spirit back in harmony. There are many books as well as videos that teach the movements of Tai Chi. There are also classes taught by knowledgeable teachers.
5. Home sauna. While a sauna is not an exercise itself, it can help to alleviate the soreness of muscles after a workout. A sauna is also a place where the user can remove the stress of the day and return to a balanced peaceful state. Saunas originally were heated by burning wood in an enclosed room. Today, anyone can have the benefit of a home sauna as long as they have access to an electrical outlet. Saunas are portable, so, if you need to relocate, the sauna can come with you.
Having an injury or other health restrictions can be demoralizing when you want to be fit. These are only a very few suggestions for low impact workouts. There are plenty more. Consider writing down your progress in a journal or even on a calendar. You may only make it to the end of your driveway on the first day of walking, but you will be able to see your progress in a glance at the end of the month when you can walk to the corner and back. What a morale booster that will be!