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Health Team

Pool workouts push fitness for Olympic, amateur athletes alike

Posted August 23

The huge success of the U.S. Olympic swim teams will no doubt inspire more people to get in the pool: American athletes walked away with 33 medals in swimming alone.

The medal count includes six for Michael Phelps, five for Katie Ledeckey, and four for Simone Manuel. But you don't have to be an Olympic athlete to reap the benefits of a few laps in the pool.

The effects of water resistance on the muscles offers a much more productive workout in a shorter amount of time than on dry land.

It can be an even great benefit for people who suffer from arthritis-related joint pain. Compared to many exercises, swimming is more low impact and therefore easier on the joints.

Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Elaine Husni says the water offers multiple benefits.

"It also is great because it encourages range of motion in all parts of your body; so, you're using your arms, you're using your legs, you're using your glutes, and most importantly, you're also engaging the core," Husni said.

The weightless feeling experience in the pool also reduces compression on irritable, swollen joints. Husni recommends swimming because it allows for a varying degree of resistance for people who want to increase their fitness level.

Studies show swimmers have lower heart rates, lower blood pressure, improved breathing and better circulation. For those who want to lose weight, swimming laps is also a great calorie burner.

Plus, it increases flexibility—a key to keeping joints working properly.

"Many of us think of exercise as just sort of getting up and doing some intense exercise, but really what we want to do is also increase your endurance over time and your flexibility because all of those improve how the joint functions," Husni said.

If cold water is keeping your from getting in the pool, Husni suggests finding an indoor community pool, which often have better water temperature control.

It is an especially good place to swim during the cold weather months when outdoor pools are closed.

The bottom line is that swimming is great exercise for everyone, regardless of age or ability.

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