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Make a Splash!

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Many of us are irresistibly drawn to lakes and rivers, the ocean, local swimming holes and pools. Outdoor bathing invigorates and rejuvenates like nothing else. It's a welcome relief from the summer heat and reconnects us with nature, helping us relax and heal. Water exercise provides unique benefits.

Many of us are irresistibly drawn to lakes and rivers, the ocean, local swimming holes and pools. Outdoor bathing invigorates and rejuvenates like nothing else. It's a welcome relief from the summer heat and reconnects us with nature, helping us relax and heal.

Water exercise provides unique benefits. It supports the body, decreasing the effect of gravity and reducing stress on joints, ligaments and bones. Its resistance strengthens muscles and provides cardiovascular support for all levels of fitness. Taking a dip is especially beneficial for those recovering from an injury or chronic conditions. The cool water promotes circulation and deep breathing, which oxygenates the bloodstream. Vigorous swimming uses all the major muscles and is an alternative workout for land-weary runners' feet and legs. Just wading or splashing your face and arms in cool water is energizing.

Alternating temperature water therapies based on wading and splashing are effective for tension headaches, enhance the skin, increase libido and reduce menopausal symptoms.

Walking in soft sand or on pebbly beaches is a wonderful workout for your toes, calves, thighs and hips. It helps to rub away rough spots and calluses, too. Reflex points on the soles of the feet correspond to all the organs and glands in the body. Most of the year the feet are in shoes and these points receive little stimulation. Strolling on the beach revitalizes internal systems. Give reflex points an extra workout by rubbing your feet around in the sand and gently pressing them against rounded stones.

Just being near a natural body of water offers significant health benefits. It's the air. In polluted cities, the air is dense with positive ions, which make us feel sluggish, lethargic, tense and irritable. Sea or lake air particularly that of waterfalls is rich with beneficial negative ions that help us feel uplifted and alert.

A US study conducted with hundreds of hay fever and asthma patients showed that when the patients were put in a negative ion-rich environment, 63 percent experienced total or partial relief. A Russian study showed that men who spent only 15 minutes a day for 25 days in such an environment showed significant improvements in overall health.

Mineral Rich

Soaking in natural, warm mineral springs offers special healing benefits known since ancient times. Their mineral content varies. Depending on the source, you'll find concentrated levels of sodium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur or bicarbonate. The Roman emperor Augustus was cured of rheumatism, arthritis, insomnia and frequent severe colds when a Greek physician diagnosed him with inflammation of the liver and prescribed cold sulphur baths. Sulphur springs can also alleviate urinary disease, diabetes and skin diseases. Bicarbonate springs help heal cuts and burns and relieve allergies and digestive problems.

Unfortunately, some water isn't safe for swimming. The skin also absorbs chemicals which damage health (children are even more vulnerable). Between 60 and 90 percent of pesticide sprays go directly into the air and the water table.

Chlorine in swimming pools is not only absorbed by the skin: volatile vapours irritate skin, eyes and lungs, where they enter the bloodstream. It's a good idea to wear goggles and to wash skin well after swimming in chlorine with an additive-free glycerine or Castile soap. Ozone-treated pools and spas, popular in Europe, are superior. Ozone kills bacteria, viruses, algae and mould with no harmful effects and is gaining in popularity in backyard pools.

Look for swimming areas far away from industrial and lawn chemicals, sewage and farm run-off. Sewage and manure harbour such pathogens as E. coli which can enter the bloodstream through a cut or swallowed water. Less worrisome are summer algae blooms in cottage lakes. Testing can track sources like septic tanks but chemical fertilizers are often to blame.

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