Breathe!

Breathing clipart human breathing, Breathing human breathing ...

We usually breathe without thinking about it. It may come as a revelation to learn that there is more than one way to breathe and that how we breathe affects our posture and mobility. There are also a variety of breathing techniques that can be utilized. Most people use a chest-oriented breathing pattern. They take a deep breath by expanding their rib cage. They pull their stomach in and breathe only into their rib cage, lifting it up as they inhale. This type of breathing recruits the chest, neck, shoulder and upper back muscles, which leads to poor posture and chronic tension, which in turn reduces mobility.

The most efficient and effective way to breathe is diaphragmatic or lower abdominal breathing. In the clip art image to the left, the top of the diaphragm is represented by the curving red line at the bottom of the lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing is sometimes referred to as belly breathing. Try placing the edge of your hands alongside the lower rib cage where the red line is and take a breath. If you experience a noticeable lateral expansion of the rib cage, you have taken a diaphragmatic breath. Now exhale by squeezing an imaginary sponge upwards in the stomach. Another way to make sure you are breathing diaphragmatically is to put the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth. This stimulates your vagus nerve ending, which is involved in the regulation of breathing, and causes diaphragmatic breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing has many benefits. It decreases blood pressure, decreases stress, decreases heart rate, and decreases pain and pain awareness. It also increases circulation, increases blood flow to the muscles, improves digestion, and improves ability to focus. Combining diaphragmatic breathing with extension exercises in the water is one way to decrease pain. Try walking backward and breathing diaphragmatically, lifting the crown of your head each time you inhale. Next press your shoulder blades down on inhalation. Relax completely during exhalation. Point your thumbs out to externally rotate the shoulders on inhalation and again relax completely during exhalation. For more information on diaphragmatic breathing, see the article written by Ruth Sova, the founder of the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab Institute, “Pain and Our Breathing Patterns” in Akwa June/July 2019 and her article “Aquatic Therapy Implementation” in Research to Practice Newsbytes Vol. 1 No. 2 Find the articles by logging onto the members only section of the AEA website.

The use of diaphragmatic breathing during exercise helps you increase your aerobic capacity, since it increases circulation and blood flow to the muscles. This is important for exercisers wishing to improve or maintain their levels of fitness. Elite athletes wishing to improve their performance may take the extra step of having the maximum amount of oxygen their bodies can utilize during exercise, or VO2 Max, measured in the lab. For more information on VO2 Max, see the article written by Dr. Luis Javier Pena-Hernandez, MD, FCCP in Garage Gym Reviews.

There are also breathing techniques to facilitate a variety of outcomes. The USMD Health System encouraged a 4-7-8 breathing exercise that is proven to help people relax. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and breathe out for 8 seconds with gusto! Dr. Nick Shroff, a urologist and Yoga teacher in Plano, Texas, did a presentation on breathing at a Yoga festival on June 16, 2022. He also described the 4-7-8 breathing technique, adding that it helps to put your hand on your belly and push the hand out as you inhale (diaphragmatic breathing), then relax the shoulders as you hold your breath, and finally push the belly in and relax the jaw as you exhale. He said it not only relaxes you but it also helps you fall asleep. Pursed lip breathing increases lung capacity. Breath in for 2 seconds, the breathe out for 4 seconds with pursed lips, as if you are blowing out a candle. An intentional breath hold improves fitness, calms the nervous system and decongests the nose. Take a small breath in and exhale a small breath, then hold your breath until the first sign of breath hunger. To make breathing more efficient during rest, close the mouth and inhale through the nose, then open the mouth and exhale as if you are trying to fog a mirror, whispering “ahhh!” Humming Bee breathing increases oxygenation to tissues, soothes the nervous system, and ventilates the sinuses. Inhale through the nose, then do a prolonged exhale with a humming sound. Press your ear flaps with your fingers to focus on the humming vibration. .If someone is hyperventilating, they are quickly taking in oxygen but not exhaling enough CO2. Breathing in a paper bag makes them inhale their exhaled CO2 and restores balance. Finally Dr. Stroff said that observing your breath anchors your mind in the present. (See my blog post on Mindfulness.) Laurie Denomme, the founder of WECoach, an organization that trains and supports water fitness instructors, described a breath optimizing strategy developed by Carl Stough, the founder of the Institute of Breathing Coordination. His strategies were used with emphysema patients and later by Olympic athletes to handle greater workloads. He called one breath strategy “whisper counting.” First inhale, then as you exhale, in a low whisper count 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 quickly and as many times as you can until you naturally run out of air. Then take a breath.

I find this fascinating and I’m looking forward to practicing diaphragmatic breathing with my classes. See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander

4 Must-Have Apps for Health Conscious Seniors

Thanks to Jason Lewis and https://strongwell.org/ for this guest article on helpful apps for seniors.

Studies have shown that approximately 67 percent of seniors are sedentary for most of the day — a lifestyle that can lead to arthritis, heart disease, depression, and hypertension. Staying health-conscious into your senior years is vitally important, but it can be difficult to know what you should do. Fortunately, technology can offer a myriad of tools to help you take control of your health and wellbeing. Here are just a few must-have apps to help you stay in great shape.

Instant Heart Rate

Your heart rate can tell you so much about your health, but it can be complicated to take your own pulse and figure out what it means. Luckily, Instant Heart Rate makes it easy. This app uses your phone’s camera to measure your heart rate and provides you with information as to what healthy heart rates look like for someone in your age group. Instant Heart Rate also allows you to perform a stress test by measuring your heart rate as you stand; if you keep regular track of your heart rate, you can bring the results to your doctor to provide him with more long-term information about your health.

Map My Walk

This excellent fitness tracker uses GPS to track the distances you walk. It provides you with suggestions for routes you might enjoy, and gives details about calories burned, how fast you went, and the elevation of your walks. You can use the app to set exercise goals for yourself and keep track of your progress. And if you prefer other sports, don’t worry — while it’s called Map My Walk, this app actually allows you to track your progress in over 600 different activities, making it an incredibly versatile option. If you prefer to exercise in the pool to stay fit, there are also apps available to measure your output and track your progression, such as Polar Flow which connects to the waterproof Polar M430 fitness tracker.

Glucose – Blood Sugar Tracker

Perfect for anyone who needs to keep track of their blood sugar for health reasons, Glucose is a simple-to-use app. It lets you track your weight, ketones, A1C, insulin, and blood pressure, and creates clear graphs to help you visualize your long term health trends. The app also keeps track of what time it is when you check your blood sugar, giving you one less thing to remember. And to make things even simpler, you can export your reports to show your doctor if need be.

What’s Covered by Medicare

Insurance can be incredibly confusing. Luckily, in 2019 Medicare launched an app called “What’s Covered,” designed to quickly tell you whether a procedure is covered under your insurance. The What’s Covered app is a great way to simplify your plan so that you know exactly what you’ll be getting and won’t have to deal with any nasty surprises.

Online Resources

Be sure to take advantage of some online resources as well. For example, if you need to downsize to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you can visit home-listing sites like Zillow and Trulia to help refine your search for a new home. If you require some extra support and need help finding an assisted living or nursing facility, sites like SeniorCare.com can help you explore your options. For example, they have detailed facility information, reviews, and cost data on 39 Dallas-area nursing homes.

The Importance of Technology

While the plethora of apps and fitness trackers can be overwhelming, many of them offer the perfect way to easily keep track of your health and ensure your ongoing wellbeing. But if you find that your phone is outdated and unable to run the apps you want, it may be time for an upgrade. Newer-model phones offer extended battery life, incredible graphics, and intelligent Wi-Fi that lets you connect more quickly no matter where you are. 

Whatever phone you use, remember that it’s a tool for you to utilize; finding all the best apps will let you fully take advantage of technology’s capabilities while staying happy and healthy.

See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander

Effective Self-Care Techniques You May Not Have Considered Before

Photo Credit Pexels

This guest Blog Post was written by Cheryl Conklin. Check out her site at https://wellnesscentral.info/

Self-care is all the rage. No matter where you look, there’s someone posting about their favorite bath bomb or face mask or posting pics of their morning’s green smoothie. Although these are perfectly legitimate forms of self-care, they’re not effective for everyone. Some people won’t get as much out of a warm bath as they will out of re-organizing their pantry, for example.

Figuring out the self-care techniques that work for you and your lifestyle is essential for creating a happier, healthier life for yourself. Water Fitness Lessons wants to give you the tools you need to build the best habits. To start, it’s always important to make sure you’re exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep. Here’s a look at a few more effective forms of self-care that many people don’t think of when planning healthy routines for themselves.

Assess Your Stress

Stress is an inevitable part of life, and there are even good forms of stress. However, too much stress can take a toll on our physical and mental health. Stress reduction is a great form of self-care, and it can be simple to implement. For starters, gauge where most of your stress comes from. Is it taking care of your family? Is it the frustration of a supervisory role at work? Are you overextending yourself by agreeing to everything all the time? These are the first places to look.

Once you identify your biggest stressors, look for ways to mitigate their effects. At work, look to delegate tasks to your staff, or look into courses for more effective management techniques. If it’s family, ask your partner to take a larger share of responsibilities, or enlist your children to tackle chores and tasks that take up your time. Saying no will likely be the hardest but learning to say no will pay off down the road. Start small, then try it again. You don’t have to be available to everyone all the time.

Assess Your Budget

Few people would list budgeting at the top of their list of self-care techniques, but it’s a shockingly important form of taking care of yourself and your household. Finances cause more stress than you might realize, notes the American Psychological Association. When money is tight, you have to spend a lot of time and mental energy figuring out how to make ends meet. Good budgeting can help make sure your money stretches far enough to survive and thrive with long-term goals.

If you look at your monthly expenses and find that your monthly expenses are too high, there are several steps you can take. If you own a home, you can investigate refinancing to see if you can get a better rate (and a lower monthly payment) on your home loan. You can also save money by trying to cut back on restaurant visits and cooking more at home, or by buying items you use regularly in bulk to save on price per unit.

Schedule Alone Time

If you live with family, roommates, or any other household situation, you might need to consider working alone time into your schedule. Many people who live with others don’t really get to spend much if any time alone. Although having a strong social network is good for you, most of us need to have some time to ourselves to rest, recharge and relax. Without it, we can start to feel like we’re always “on” in a sense.

There are many great ways to enjoy some alone time. For example, you can pair your solitude with a walk around the neighborhood, going for a swim or an online exercise video. You can enjoy an exciting book or indulge in a favorite hobby. It’s usually best to pick something you can’t easily do with others, or something you know you’d especially enjoy tackling solo. This way you’re getting the most out of your time.

Get Outside

Finally, many of us spend nearly all our time indoors. This means we miss out on the myriad benefits you receive when spending time outside. Sunlight and fresh air are absolutely invaluable when it comes to health and wellbeing. Most directly, sunlight allows our bodies to produce Vitamin D, a vital nutrient that helps our body do everything from fight infection to regulate mood. More time outside can help you feel happier, more energized, and ready to take on the world.

This is just the start of the benefits of getting outside. According to Harvard Medical School, people who spend more time outdoors tend to be more active, have healthier habits over all, and may even live longer. Consider going on a hike or visiting a nearby park a few times a week. You can also look into creating a relaxing outdoor space on your property or get into an outdoor hobby like gardening.

Remember, self-care doesn’t have to be photogenic or glamorous — it needs to be effective. Search for the healthy habits and self-care techniques that suit your needs, passions, and lifestyle. In doing so, you’ll give yourself the best chance at sticking with them and fostering real, long-term change.

See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo

Chris Alexander

How to Adjust Your Fitness Routine When You-re Stuck at Home

Stuck at home? Dreaming of the days early last year when you were killing it at your local aquatic center? Well, you’ve come to the right place. With a little tweaking of your routine, a willingness to try new things, and the determination to see it through, you can stay in shape until you feel safe enough to return to the pool.

Water Fitness Lessons is dedicated to aquatic fitness. For guidelines on how to safely swim during the pandemic as well as other helpful insight, be sure to bookmark my blog!

Exercising When You Can’t take an Aquatic Fitness Class. If your favorite physical activity is water exercise or swimming, and you’re still not ready to get into the water, there are other ways to stay active until it’s time to jump back in the pool:

Finding Effective Home Workouts. In addition to biking or running, look to at-home workouts to switch up your routine and keep your muscles guessing:

Staying Motivated. It’s important to find ways to stay motivated, so find some tried and true ways to make these new routines stick:

Yes, sticking with your aquatic fitness routine is great, but until you can get back there, find other ways to take care of yourself. Exercise, eat right and stay well.

This guest Blog post was written by Anya Willis. Check out her website at FitKids

We hope to see you back in the pool soon!

Author/Instructor Photo

Chris Alexander

CDC Guidelines for Pools

senior women led by female instructor at water aerobics A group of senior ladies take part in a water aerobics session. They are using pool noodles and are being led by a young female instructor. They are all laughing and smiling water aerobics stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

The CDC is not aware of any scientific reports of the virus that causes COVID-19 spreading to people through the water in pools, water playgrounds, or other treated aquatic venues. The virus most commonly spreads from person-to-person by respiratory droplets during close physical contact. Droplets are released when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. They can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. The virus might also spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose, mouth, or possibly eyes. Infected people can spread the virus whether or not they have symptoms.

It has not been easy for many people to maintain their level of fitness while sheltering in place, and we are eager to get back to our regular exercise routines. If that means taking a water fitness class, the CDC has recommendations for you to be able to do that safely.

  • Correctly and consistently wear a mask that completely covers your nose and mouth. See my previous post “More about Masks” for more information https://waterfitnesslessonsblog.com/2021/01/30/more-about-masks/ Wear the mask until just before you get into the pool. You should not wear the mask in the water because a wet mask it is hard to breathe through. After class dry your hands and face and put the mask back on.
  • Arrive at the pool with your swim suit on, ready to get in the water. This eliminates or at least minimizes the amount of time you spend in the locker room.
  • Stay at least six feet away from others who do not live with you. Six feet is a few inches longer than a typical pool noodle which is a good image to help you visualize the proper distance. Six feet is a good separation if your class is low intensity, for example aqua yoga or light aerobics. However, if your class involves sweating and heavy breathing, such as high intensity interval training, then air is coming out of your mouth with more force and traveling farther. For that reason, you should spread farther apart. In my classes we use periodization, beginning with low intensity in the pre-season and working up to high intensity during peak fitness. If you want to go all out during peak fitness then you will want to be 12-15 feet away from other participants.
  • Avoid crowds. Do not congregate on the pool deck with other participants unless you have your mask on and are standing 6 feet apart.
  • Do not share equipment. Since there is a chance that you could pick up the virus from a contaminated surface, deep-water belts and pool equipment should be sanitized before using them again.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Get vaccinated when the vaccine is available to you. Getting vaccinated does not mean that you can dispense with the previous recommendations. The vaccines are not 100% effective, so you might still get infected. New variants of the disease are circulating that are more contagious. It is expected that if you did get infected after you were vaccinated, you would have a mild case or perhaps no symptoms at all. Little is known about whether vaccinated people can spread the virus to others.
  • Get tested if you have signs or symptoms of COVID-19, or if you think you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

For more information on CDC Guidelines, see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/beaches-pools.html Additional information for this article comes from NPR November 20, 2020, NY Times 4/15/2020, The Dallas Morning News 2/8/2020 and 2/9/2020.

The last thing any of us want is a new surge of infections before enough people have been vaccinated that we achieve herd immunity. It is not known exactly what proportion of the population that would be, as the rate varies by disease. For now, continue to wear a mask, maintain social distancing, wash your hands, and sign up to get the vaccine when you can.

See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo

Chris Alexander