Water workouts: Freedom to move

Patti Bishop, Water Fitness
Patti Bishop, Water Fitness

By Patti Bishop, B.Sc.

When you think of strength training, you likely think of the gym and activities such as lifting dumb bells or using rubber tubing and cables. However, there’s another place where people with Parkinson’s can have fun, find freedom and work on fitness goals – the water! Water is a fantastic medium for a full body workout.

Here are 10 water exercises to help you stand taller and stronger and move more freely.

Balance and core muscles

Let the water’s continual movement help stimulate your balance receptors and activate your core muscles.

• Stand with both feet together and scull your hands in front of your body (moving hands side to side as if smoothing two piles of sand).
• Stand on one leg and scull your hands in front of the body.
• Stand on one leg. Scull with the opposite hand and lift the other hand out of the water.
• Take 5 steps, stop and stabilize on either one foot or both.
• Lean forward in the water until your feet rise off the pool floor. Push your arms down and pull your knees in until you can bring your feet underneath you and stand up tall.

Resistance and strength training

Use the resistance provided by the density of the water to increase the power of your workout and strengthen the muscles along the back of your body.

• Stand with your feet hip-width apart and palms together in front of the body. Push arms away from each other as if giving someone a big hug. Throw your arms out and slowly bring them back together.
• Stand with your feet hip-width apart, palms up and elbows at your sides. Press your hands down into the water until your arms are straight. Return your hands slowly to the starting position.
• Place your hands at your sides and scull the water for balance. Let one leg lift to a 45-degree angle in front of you. Push it down and behind you slightly.

Gait improvement

Let the buoyancy of the water help you naturally lift your legs and take bigger steps. Work your gluteal (butt) muscles as you push each leg down to the floor.

• Practice walking forward, backward and sideways. Use the lines on the bottom of the pool as a guide.
• Practice starting and stopping.


Health and safety tips

Footwear. Wear water shoes with good support. They will give you traction and better balance on the pool floor.
Handwear. Try swim mitts. They stabilize you in the water, by increasing the surface area of your hands, and provide resistance which helps build upper body strength.
Partnering. Work out with a partner. This will help you feel comfortable and safe in the water.
Hydration. Fill up on fluids beforehand. Keep a water bottle nearby to avoid dehydration which can cause dizziness and fatigue.

Patti Bishop, B.Sc. is a personal trainer, at North Star Fitness Inc., who specializes in working with people with movement disorders.

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