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Watery Workout

by Valerie Compton

Leaving planet earth may be the only way to more radically change the way you work out. Most of us don’t exercise with astronauts, but it’s still possible to remove the effect of gravity simply by changing elements.

Is aquatic exercise the perfect form of fitness training? Certified aquafitness instructor Marlene Cairns is adamant it is—and with a drawer full of certificates from aquatic leadership training courses and 13 years of teaching under her belt, she ought to know.

Imagine being massaged while you work out. That’s the effect the hydrostatic pressure of deep water has on the body, lowering the pulse rate by pushing blood back to the heart almost twice as efficiently as in air. A flotation belt worn around the waist in combination with the natural buoyancy of the water reduces the damaging effect of gravity on the joints and allows for increased range of motion. Think about doing a jumping jack. On a hard surface, the thud of landing resonates through the ankles, knees, hips and spine. In the water, not only is that pressure on the joints reduced, the exercise is incredibly efficient. The resistance of water is twelve times that of air, so every movement you make in water works your muscles as if you were lifting weights. And because balance is continually being challenged by turbulence, core stability develops rapidly through aquatic exercise.

Ask Cairns about the classes she teaches at the new Capital Area Recreation (CARI) pool on the UPEI campus and she lights up like a Christmas tree. “The classes are fun!” she says. “They’re exciting! I try to be vivacious and gregarious and create a sense of camaraderie. People must be inspired and motivated to exercise.”

If Cairns sounds like an evangelist for exercise, she’s entitled. On September 8th, 2003 she finished chemotherapy for breast cancer, and the very next day she was on the pool deck, teaching class. Her secret: “I take care of this body!” Noting the high levels of obesity and type-2 diabetes on the island, Cairns observes, “We should all be exercising. Every islander. There are three rules: listen to your body, listen to your body and listen to your body.”

For information on Marlene’s aquafitness classes go to www.caripei.ca/aquatics.html, or call the CARI pool at 569-4584.

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