Water Exercise

Photo Credit: Orgullomoore CC-BY-SA-3.0-migrated
Swimming is one of the most effective whole body exercises you can do. You don’t have to be an expert swimmer or even know how to swim to take advantage of exercising in water. Exercise in a pool can provide a hardcore aerobic workout for your whole body, including your heart and lungs. The water will support your body, take pressure off your joints and muscles while providing resistance to help strengthen  your muscles. If you are not a strong swimmer or you don’t know how to swim, wear a flotation device and make sure the lifeguard at the pool knows you do not know how to swim. Gyms that have a pool and organizations like the YMCA frequently offer water aerobics and water exercise classes for groups if you aren’t sure how to begin or don’t want to invest in water weights. Membership fees for community organizations are usually reasonable. Gym prices vary, but most offer programs at a reasonable cost. 
The easiest water exercise to do is to walk around in the pool. Enter the pool and walk to a point where the water reaches your waist. Walk back and forth across the pool in the waist-deep water to give your legs a good workout. Swing your arms naturally as you would when walking on land. Walk using a normal gait. Avoid pushing off with your toes and don’t lean forward.  Squeezing your abdominal muscles while walking will also give your abs a good isometric workout and help keep you from leaning forward. Walk across the shallow water 15 to 20 times. When  you can do 20 laps in the shallow water without becoming exhausted, try increasing the number of laps or walking in deeper water, up to your chest. 
Incorporate some weight lifting into your water exercise by using water weights. Water weights are like foam dumbbells. They create a lot of resistance in the water. Hold the water weights in your hands with your palms facing up and raise the weights up to the level of the water to exercise your biceps. Hold the weights with your palms facing the bottom of the pool and push the weights through the water toward your back to work your triceps. Try to perform 15 to 20 each of the biceps and triceps curls or until you are tired.  
Finish your water exercise with a few laps of the pool. Even if you don’t know how to swim, you should be able to do a few laps while wearing a flotation vest. If you are uncomfortable in deep water, swim back and forth across the pool in water no deeper than your waist. 

Exercise for Menopause Symptom Relief

Photo Credit: Tom Thai CC-BY-2.0

Menopause is a normal stage in a woman’s life. Hormonal changes in a woman’s body manifest as physical symptoms, including sweating at night and “hot flashes,” moodiness, sadness, irritability and sleeplessness. It is important to remain physically active and continue to eat a healthy diet throughout life. Menopause is no time to stop exercising. Your bones and muscles will benefit from strengthening and flexibility exercises. Your mood can be improved by the release of endorphins during physical exertion. Exercise and diet are important in the prevention and treatment of diseases, like arthritis and osteoporosis. See your doctor for a complete physical and talk to him or her about continuing or beginning an exercise program to help you deal with the symptoms of menopause. 
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise may not help to lessen menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleeplessness. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that physical exercise can help reduce menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and improve mood. Whether exercise has a direct and measurable impact on the symptoms of menopause is less important than remaining physically active throughout your life. Walking, swimming, yoga and tai chi are low-impact exercises than can help keep your joints flexible, improve your balance and strengthen your muscles. Swimming is an excellent whole body aerobic exercise that helps to maintain cardiovascular health. Staying physically active or beginning a physical fitness program can also help you to avoid weight gain or promote weight loss. Because women tend to lose more muscle mass and add belly fat after menopause, it is important to remain physically active or begin an exercise program. You can feel better physically and emotionally by staying active and eating a healthy diet. If your symptoms are severe and interfere with your life, see your doctor for treatment options. 

Does Joint Popping Cause Arthritis?

Photo Credit:  Jojo PD-User 2009
Some people are in the habit of popping their knuckles and other joints. The joints make a “pop” sound when pulled or pressed due to a build up of tiny amounts of nitrogen gas in the fluid surrounding the joint. Pressing or pulling on the joint can force the gas out of the joint, which causes the joint to “pop.” You’ve probably heard that popping your knuckles or other joints can cause arthritis. There is no evidence to support a causal connection between joint popping and arthritis. Generally, cracking your knuckles and popping other joints is not harmful. The knees, elbows, ankles or back may “pop” during exercise. This is normal and not cause for alarm, unless the pop is followed by pain, swelling or discoloration. Seek medical attention if you experience pain following a joint pop. Pain may be an indication of an injury or joint condition, such as arthritis, and should be treated by a physician. Stretching exercises can help reduce joint popping during exercise. It is also important for those suffering from arthritis to remain active and continue to exercise to improve their range of motion and flexibility. 
Exercises that focus on stretching and balance include yoga, Pilates and tai chi. See your doctor before beginning an exercise program. A personal fitness trainer can help you design a program to keep your joints flexible and reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis. Strengthening the muscles can also help relieve joint pain and swelling due to arthritis. 
Isometric exercises increase the strength of the muscles without moving the joints. Isometric strength exercises include hand presses, wall presses, abdominal squeezes and muscles flexing. To do hand presses, place your palms together and press your hands together in a “prayer” position in the middle of your chest. Keep your elbows down and press your palms together. Hold the press for about 10 to 20 seconds and relax. Repeat this exercise 5 times and increase the number of repetitions as your arm strength increases. Wall presses are performed by standing about 1 foot from a wall and pressing your palms against the wall. Gently lean in toward the wall and support the weight of your body with your arms. Hold the position for 10 seconds and then relax. Repeat 5 times. Increase the number of repetitions as you become stronger. You can strengthen the leg muscles by standing on one leg for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other side. Increase the length of time you stand on one leg as you become stronger. 

For more information about joints and arthritis, see: