February is the month to focus on your heart. In addition to Valentine’s Day, February celebrates American Heart Month to raise awareness for heart health. In support, the CDC has provided suggested exercise plans to promote good cardiovascular health year-round. With cold winter temperatures, February is also when many people have lower body injuries from skiing, sledding or slipping on ice. If you have a lower-body injury, chronic knee pain or general leg pain from physical activity, swimming is a great exercise solution. Swimming is a fun and effective way to stay in shape. In addition, swimming has been proven to reduce stress. Here are ways you can exercise in the pool. Pull Buoys Pull buoys are foam figure-8-shaped flotation devices that are placed between your thighs to keep them together while you swim. This allows you to swim without kicking, while your legs are kept afloat. Many public pool will have baskets of pull buoys along the side of the pool. Swimming with a pull-buoy is commonly referred to as “pulling” because it’s a great upper-body workout. Arm Bikes Arm ergometers, or arm bikes, are another great way to get a cardiovascular workout without using your legs. Arm bikes can be useful for those who are in a wheelchair and unable to have someone to assist them in the water. While arm bikes can strengthen arm muscles and provide cardiovascular exercise, it’s difficult to get the heart rate up and pumping with them and they only burn around nine calories per minute. Swimming Swimming and, specifically, pulling with just your arms, uses more abdominal muscles than arm biking, enables controlled breathing, and burns five to 10 calories per minute more than arm biking. Additionally, you can add variety to pulling workouts with press-outs, dips or bicep curls with a foam dumbbell. Water Running Water running with a flotation belt is a great way to practice your running form, while changing up your cardio workouts. This enables you to use the water as resistance for strength and keep your lower body moving without harmful impact from the ground. If you or someone you know has lower body pain that limits physical activity, go to the pool for a swim with a pull buoy or a buoyancy belt. In honor of American Heart Month, make swimming a part of your regular exercise and improve your cardiovascular fitness.
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