Instant Exercise: Just Add Water

LIVING

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Among residents of Arizona, the collective desire to exercise in the great outdoors during the dog days of summer usually plummets in direct proportion to the rise in temperatures.

But Sara Siverson has an answer for those who might otherwise spend the next three months vegging out in front of the nearest air-conditioning vent:

The Payson Parks and Recreation Department's weekday Water Aerobics classes.

"Water aerobics just provides a really good workout, especially for people who might not be able to perform regular exercise on land due to a disability, injury or pregnancy," Siverson said, extolling the virtues of sweatin' in the wet. "Their range of motion is increased, the impact is decreased, it's good physical therapy, it's a lot of fun ... and you cool off instead of heat up."

Water aerobics is an excellent way for people of all ages and fitness levels to exercise in an injury-free environment, Siverson said. In addition to its cooling properties, aquatic exercise can increase flexibility, strength, heart health, coordination, and overall well being. And through the natural buoyancy we achieve in water, body weight is decreased by about 90 percent making the impact on joints and muscles barely noticeable during aerobic exercise.

The natural resistance that water applies to the body's movements makes building and toning the muscles possible. The calories you burn up are double what you'd spend on land, because it takes more muscles to move the legs through the water than the air. For example, walking for an hour on land burns about 240 calories. In the water, that same walk will burn 530 calories.

Athletes who have been injured are often advised to turn to a pool to exercise, because water exercise is considered by many therapists to be the best way to re-build a torn or strained tendon, rebuild muscles and loosen joints after surgery.

Also, you don't have to know how to swim in order to take advantage of water aerobic exercises, thanks to the many flotation devices that are available.

Part of the reason Siverson is such a water-aerobics booster is that she sees the wonders it can work five days a week.

"One of the women in our classes has problems with her right ankle," Siverson said. "She can't even step down on it. But the water aerobics class has her getting out of her house, getting into the water, and increasing the strength in that ankle every day.

"A lot of other women have told me that water aerobics have helped them lose weight, or that it has just helped them enjoy their summer exercise program a little more."

The class isn't just geared toward seniors with health challenges, however.

"Our students include people of all ages," Siverson said. "We even have a number of teenage girls who are just looking to get toned for the summer. Water aerobics really is the perfect summertime exercise for everyone."

When and where

The Payson Parks and Recreation Department's water aerobics will be held through middle or late August at Taylor Pool, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., and from 5:30 p.m. to 6:25 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. The sign-up fee is $25. Participants may attend both daily classes for a single fee.

For more information, call Taylor Pool at 474-2774, or Parks and Recreation at 474-5242, ext. 7.

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