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Swimming for strength

Getting in the pool is a great way to exercise without overworking muscles and joints

Monday, March 31, 2003
By Alicia Carmichael

Swimming has long been touted by fitness experts as one of the most perfect exercises.

Those with bad ankles, knees or backs can do it often.

Pregnant women and the elderly are encouraged to swim.

Those with arthritis, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis can often swim when other exercises hurt.

And swimming can help you shed lots of pounds while feeling better about yourself.

Stephanie Johnson, a personal trainer and fitness manager at Total Fitness Connection in Bowling Green, talked about what swimming has done for her.

“I just had my baby three months ago,” she said. “At seven months pregnant, I started going into the pool because my body wouldn’t allow me to do weights out here” on the gym floor.

Johnson hadn’t felt like herself for months then.

Her back often ached. She was getting bigger.

Swimming helped her stay physically in shape, while also helping her mental status.

“The night after I went into the pool, I said, ‘I feel more like myself than I’ve felt in a long time,’” she said.

While swimming, her aching back felt normal.

It’s because “the water takes a lot of your body weight off and that helps as far as your joints are concerned,” Johnson said.

She thinks staying active on a regular basis until about a month before she had her baby helped her shed 35 of the 40 pounds she had gained during her pregnancy within two weeks of giving birth.

“The more you start moving, the more it gets your metabolism going,” she said.

Pam Brown, a physical therapist at Total Fitness Connection, works in the TFC pool with patients who are recovering from a variety of ailments.

“The water is warm and it relaxes them and their muscles and makes exercising less painful,” she said. “We get a lot of patients here who’ve had surgery on an ankle, knee or hip or their lower back. Doctors will allow them to exercise in the water because it isn’t detrimental” to their recovery.

In fact, swimming can strengthen weak spots very well.

“They can swim, walk in the water, or jog in the water to build endurance,” Brown said.

Cardiovascular strength is another plus.

Johnson said swimming can be a God-send for those who didn’t think they could exercise at all.

“A lady with arthritis two years ago was going to cancel her membership (to Total Fitness Connection) because of pain,” Johnson said. “I put her in the pool and she did exercises. She progressed.”

Now, the woman exercises in the water regularly.

It’s a place where stretching is easier because of buoyancy.

Cool or warm water can prevent overheating that may accompany other exercises.

In the water, you can find a world of your own.

“It’s not a competitive thing,” Johnson said.

But remember, before beginning any exercise program, it’s important to consult your physician.

© Copyright 2003, Bowling Green Kentucky Daily News