Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Fresh Approach to Summer Fitness

 With a new season comes new opportunities for a fresh start in every aspect of life. 

"The change of season is an excellent opportunity to make a change in a fitness routine," says Amy Goldwater, M.S., educator, former body building champion, and physical fitness expert for TOPS.  "No single exercise can universally meet the needs of all people.  We all have various levels of skill, motivation, and fitness.  It's important to choose activities that fit your interest and capabilities."

Goldwater notes that fitness practices don't always have to be organized activities.  A day at the beach offers a wide variety of exercise opportunities that participants might not have considered.  For example, shoveling sand to make a sand castle can be great exercise.

"Picking up rocks and shells will work the lower back, hamstrings, and quadriceps," Goldwater says.  "A carefree game of keep-away or tag is ideal to increase the heart rate.  Simply walking or running on the sand can give the body a work out as the unstable nature of this surface means the body has to work hard to balance – resulting in more calories burned and a great work out for core muscles.  Sand workouts are also easier on the joints, making them less prone to injury or strain."

Other suggestions for waterside activities that require little or no previous training include:
• Beach football - a great workout for the legs and buttocks.
• Frisbee - burns calories, works the upper back and arm muscles, and provides good cardiovascular conditioning if running is involved.
• Volleyball - ideal for arms, legs, and core muscles.
• Water walking or jogging - a great warm up or work out.  Walk or jog along the edge of the water with the water level between ankle and knee height.  The water adds resistance and makes the activity more challenging.  You could even walk near the water and challenge yourself not to get your feet wet!


There are a variety of other indoor and outdoor activities to consider when refreshing a fitness plan.  Activities like bench stepping and water exercise (in the pool) provide cardio and resistance workouts without creating excessive wear and tear on joints and muscles. 
Bench stepping involves stepping on and off a low bench (four to eight inches high) and combines the cardio intensity of running with the gentleness of walking.  Moving the arms will increase the intensity.  The force of the impact from bench stepping is about the same as the impact from walking. 
Aquatic exercise, including swimming, water walking, or running, can be suitable for all people, regardless of their level of swimming skill.  Water exercise can improve aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and flexibility.  These activities can provide an excellent training stimulus, and place much less stress on the joints and muscles than similar activities performed out of the water.

Goldwater notes that where exercise is concerned, people often forget that it's okay to be creative.  Many physical activities not only lead to increased fitness but also allow for individual expression.  "Even though there seem to be fewer ways to catch a pass or hit a tennis ball than there are ways to dance or move to music, the opportunity for creativity exists in all activities," she says.  "Exercise and staying in shape can develop more then just your muscles!"

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