Dealing with joint pain? Try swimming

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – You’ve pounded your legs on the pavement for years and just can’t seem to put in the miles you used to. Try hanging up the running shoes; don a swimsuit and goggles for the workout that gives you the highest cardio-respiratory fitness compared to any other sport: swimming.

Kris Simpson, an ACSM certified personal trainer, a basketball coach and triathlete admits the swimming portion of the “swim, bike, run” was very challenging.

“Lats and back were sore, your shoulders are tired, my core got stronger, my triceps – [I have] nice swimming arms now,” says Simpson.

The challenge of swimming is in the resistance. Water offers between 12 to 14 percent more resistance than air, which forces you to build and tone muscles faster. In a study of men who completed an eight-week swimming program, they saw a 23.8 percent increase in the triceps muscle in the back of the arm.

“The fact that you’re using your arms and your legs and you’re trying to move through the water makes it a bit of work, makes it a great workout,” says Simpson.

Researchers at IU’s Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming found that swimmers of all ages had more lean muscle and trimmer waists and hips than non-swimmers. In a separate study, they found regular swimming substantially delayed signs of aging in terms of blood pressure, muscle mass and pulmonary function.

“Swimming is a great cardiovascular sport, it definitely helps with helping your heart rate and your endurance,” says clinical exercise physiologist Regina Gallerani.

Water-based exercise can help people with chronic diseases, based on research compiled by the Centers for Disease Control. For people with arthritis and osteoarthritis, it improves use of affected joints without worsening symptoms. Swimming has also been shown to improve mood in both men and women.

“People who are having trouble moving, in general, who maybe wouldn’t want to start off running, but want to get into some kind of activity, swimming is definitely a great activity to start with,” says Gallerani.

Because 90 percent of the body is buoyant, swimming provides a low-impact exercise with great cardiovascular benefits.

“It was easier on my back and easier on my body,” says Simpson. “I’ve had some knee problems — just from pounding and running on concrete and that kind of stuff, and this just makes it a nice break, easy on my body.”

If you don’t already swim, it appears Indianapolis may be a great city to take up the sport. USA Swimming recently named Indianapolis and Carmel as 10th on list for Top Swim Cities in America. The study looked at the number of USA Swimming members, swimming facilities and swimming clubs, as well as how many swimmers qualified for high level competitions — like national championships and Olympic trials.

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