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By Vision Reporter

Added 30th August 2005 03:00 AM

SWIMMING is an exercise that improves body fitness. It can boost strength, stamina and suppleness all at the same time.

SWIMMING is an exercise that improves body fitness. It can boost strength, stamina and suppleness all at the same time.

By Herbert Mugarura

SWIMMING is an exercise that improves body fitness. It can boost strength, stamina and suppleness all at the same time.

All major muscles of the abdomen, arms, legs and buttocks are involved depending on the stroke you use; backstroke, front crawl (freestyle) and breaststroke. It is an efficient aerobic exercise that helps to keep the heart and lungs healthy, keep joints flexible, especially in the neck, shoulders, hips and groin while burning out excess fat and managing body weight.

In water, you weigh about a tenth of your normal weight and the range of motion for the less fit person is much wider, as the water supports the weight of your limbs.

People with arthritis, backache, weight problems and those who are pregnant can find relief in a swimming pool. The air round a swimming pool is usually very humid, which makes breathing more comfortable especially for those who have lung problems like asthma.

Perennial swimmers have the best figure because the sport improves posture, flexibility, muscle tone and muscular endurance, strength and balance.

It is a form of aquatic muscle therapy. It stimulates blood circulation and promotes proper breathing. The co-ordination build up in swimming reduces incidences of fall and hip fractures in the elderly. It is a way of improving ones health and combating the aging process. Exercise may protect against colon cancer and can help the elderly retain more of their ability to think clearly.

Swimming encourages a positive attitude, and heightens a sense of well-being.

But for these benefits to accrue, the type of water must be controlled as in a swimming pool.

Researchers assessed the health and social impact of swimming pools in two remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia. They found out that salt-water pools improved the quality of life and reduced the high rates of ear disease and skin infections among Aboriginal children.

But even with a swimming pool, diseases such as cryptosporidiousis, which causes diarrhoea and pseudomonas foliculitis, which causes an itchy rash along the swimsuit line, are common. Cryptosporidium is a microscopic chlorine-resistant parasite.

If not properly maintained, whirlpools, Jacuzzi and hot tubs can be a haven for bacteria. There are documented cases of Hepatitis A outbreaks from pools that have not been fully chlorinated and have gross faecal contamination. Conjunctivitis (non-bacterial) may occur in swimmers because of sensitivity to chlorine.

Other infection risks include Molluscum Contagiosum, a viral skin water-borne infection; skin allergic reaction, which may be due to wet suits, masks or black suits; warts and inflammation and/or infection of the outer ear canal (Otitis Externa).

For height divers, barometric changes may cause ear eustachian tube dysfunction.

‘Swimming pool granuloma’ is another protracted infection caused by mycobacteria marinum from contaminated swimming pools.

With decreased immunity, women can experience a slight increase in genital (vaginal) infections.

Nevertheless, the obvious advantages supersede the possible risks that may even be controlled with proper hygiene.

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