It is officially summer in Austin, and that means more time spent in the water cooling off. At St. David’s Rehabilitation Hospital, we find that many of our patients benefit from the buoyant and resistive properties of water year-round in our indoor therapy pool. One of the tools used most frequently in our pool is the “noodle.” These inexpensive pool toys can be found almost anywhere during the summer season, and many rehabilitation patients have no idea they can use their noodle for exercise in addition to using it for floating and relaxing.
Below are just a few of the many exercises you can do with just a pool and a noodle. Try them out next time you find yourself in the water – your body will thank you!
- Start in the deep end of the pool, where your feet will not hit the floor
- Keep your body vertical with your legs underneath you, rather than out in front of your body
- Straddle a large-diameter noodle between your legs, as if sitting on a horse
- Sit up “high in the saddle” – don’t slouch!
- Engage your abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button in and up.
Exercise 1: Bicycling
Pedal your legs as if riding a bicycle. Begin slowly with large revolutions to stretch out your muscles. Gradually go faster once you have warmed up.
Exercise 2: “Half” Jumping Jacks
Keeping your knees straight and ankles flexed (toes pulled up toward you), bring your legs out to the side and then back together in the center. It’s like doing jumping jacks without using your arms.
Exercise 3: Cross-country Skiing
Keeping your legs straight and ankles flexed, “scissor” your legs as if cross-country skiing. Bring one leg to the front while the other goes slightly behind you. Remember to stay vertical!
Not so fast:
You can do any of the above exercises quickly, slowly or at your own pace. In general, slower movements will be larger and will help you stretch your muscles. Quick movements will be smaller and will provide more resistance for strengthening of the muscles. Make sure not go so fast that you end up sacrificing good form – and remember to sit up tall!
When you feel comfortable enough, you can start to add arm movements to these exercises. This will increase your cardiovascular involvement and offer a better overall workout. To do so, you can cup your hands for resistance as you make circles. You can also swing your arms at your sides or bring them horizontally out and in across the surface of the water.
Enjoy the summer and your new water exercise regimen!
Vickie Walker, PT, Aquatics Program
St. David’s Rehabilitation Hospital