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11Dec/09Off

Wonderful water therapies – Swimming, Part 2

Alright, I just came back from a vacation and will go on to talk about different healing therapies along with my research. Sometimes,  it's not necessarily limited to Healthy Check therapies, just whatever alternative therapies I found interesting. I brought up some inspiring stories of swimming last post. Indeed, swimming has been long known for a great exercise. In the recent 20 years, it has become a physical therapy for many patients instructed by doctors. Over 60 millions of Americans take swimming as a long-term exercise for health "maintenance". In the old days of Chinese community, most people focused on working hard as their "exercise", partly because of the poverty keep them "work" hard in the farms, or as blue collar workers just to survive. Now since the society changed a lot already, people who are especially over 30-40 years old realize their health are getting worse. They need to find a better way for leisure and health purpose, which can keep them healthy even after retire.  Swimming is known as the best work out for the whole body.  So it's getting more popular in Chinese community than before.

A lot of consistent swimmers go for swimming because their health is declining, usually after 40 something, symptoms are like sore back, get tired easily, etc. Retired swimmers also go swim for social purpose as well. Repetitive movements, slow and steady breaths, the freedom and the floating force provided by water, help swimmers to feel relieved and change the mindset. Some people swim for fun immersing in the water, some swim for exercise, some people swim for stress relief. No matter what the reasons are, swimming has some advantage that no other exercise can replace. First of all, water somewhat defy gravity and let our body joints and muscle freely move, so patients with muscle or joints problems, or injured limbs take swimming as their best choice of exercise and even "movement". Furthermore, unlike walking or running, which use mostly a few parts of your body, swimming uses the whole body including arms, legs, back, stomach and all major group of muscles, so it's the most balanced exercises. Swimming doesn't give as much pressure as other exercises to circulation system and joints.

Doctors usually suggest people who has arthritis or body injury to swim, because this is the best method  increasing the amount of exercise with minimum strikes to the body. According to some sports specialist, swimming in correct poses is almost the only exercise that doesn't cause injury to our body, because water almost make our body weightless. There is only 10% of active force of the land, so the pressure to our joints is very small as well. Some handicapped people go swimming like a fish everyday and totally get rid of the limitation of their injured body.

Can swimming lose some weight? Consistent swimming can really tone up our muscle and get rid of fat, but weight is different. Muscle is heavier than fat so swimming may actually gain some weight. Since cold water makes our brain senses hunger after swimming to tell our body to eat a good meal. If we eat more than necessary after swimming, it could be worse. However, if we can control our calorie intake, swimming does burn more fat than running. A specialist indicated that water is 775 times heavier than air, swimmers has to burn 25% more calories than normal runners to resist the water pressure.

The most appealing says of swimming is that swimmers look younger than their real age. Also, the author of The Complete Book of Swimming, P. Whitten also indicates that swimming reduce fat and blood pressure, increase good cholesterol , hence reduce the  chances of heart diseases, diabetes and some cancers.

27Nov/09Off

Wonderful water therapies – Swimming, Part 1

Mr. Chen, age 36, is a patient of gout. Since he started swimming, he couldn't stop this wonderful habit. Although he didn't know how to swim at first and his swimming postures were funny, after a few weeks of practices, he can already swim 700-800 meters. He felt a little shameful learning swimming at his age, but he found swimming is the first exercise ever that he really interested. Other than fulfilling his interest, swimming did help healing his gout problem. He's been taking medicines for gout for a few years. After he learned swimming, his gout seemed to have healed. The medicines were also cut to half of what he was taking by the doctor. His mom noticed that his health got improved a lot. Mr. Chen always got flu before but now he's much stronger and never caught a flu or even cold.

Mrs. Xiu was really negative after a motorcycle accident, especially her legs weren't able to walk, and she also lost her law suit against the person who caused the accident. All these made her turned very blue towards her life. She felt her life got ruined and even thought about committing suicide. After two surgeries on her legs and installed artificial joints, she started to learn how to walk again with a walking stick, trying to rebuild her life. However, her son and daughter had to take care of her in turns because they live and study far from home. She felt really like a burden to her family. Every day she wish she could take care of herself, but she can't even stand without support. A few days before her son go for military service, he brought Mrs. Xiu to swimming for the very first time. At first she wasn't interested, she was thinking to come back in an hour or two. However, once she tried, she loved it. She even asked her son, "Why didn't you bring me to swim earlier?"

Mrs. Xiu started to go swimming by herself since her son left. She didn't feel lonely because she found a new social life in swimming pool, and an interesting exercise that helped her legs recover. At first she started really slow, but after the help from the coach and other swimmers, she quickly learned all different styles of from breaststroke to freestyle. She started to walk better as well. At first her family just thought swimming helped curing her legs quick. Half year later, when Mrs. Xiu son went swimming with her, he found that her mom can swim almost faster than he could - a pretty big body swimming like a fish. He said her mom became a total different person, sort of like "resurrected". Mrs. Xiu, of course, really happy about the effects of this "therapy". Now she can go to the doctor's office by herself. She met another patient who replaced the joints at around the same time, still walking with a stick. She immediately shared her wonderful experience with swimming with that patient. Now she goes swimming everyday whether is sunny or rainy. She drives 30 minutes with her new motorcycle to the swimming pool. She doesn't mind that because swimming totally changed her life.

(to be cont'd)

25Nov/09Off

Wonderful water therapies – Spa, hot spring, etc, Part 6

(cont'd from part 5)

Healing with spa in hot spring definitely have certain ways when we take the bath. Some people think  the hotter water the better, or the longer of the bath the better. However, these are wrong perceptions. Mr. Hong indicates that immersing in hot water for too long may hurt the skin, while the ability to dehydrate and calories burning is different from one to one. Taiwan and Japan are places that have mostly high temperature hot springs. The water can be as hot as 38-44 Celsius degrees. The extreme temperature one can resist in hot water is around 51 Celsius degrees, but Mr. Hong don't recommend that high because there's a disease called "spa-sick". Some guests never add cold water to sulfuric spring, because they think lower temperature isn't as enjoyable. They'll start going higher and higher without knowing it, and then the skin got irritated. If it's too itchy and they scratch it and hurting their skin, it's already quite serious. Another symptom is that they can't live without hot spring. If they don't go for a spa often, they find themselves sore, nausea and dizzy.

There's another spa called steam spa or Sauna which was originally from Finland. Now it's very popular in a lot of gyms and spa salon. Sauna room almost becomes a standard facilities in a lot of gyms, like a popular ways to maintain good shape and skin. Although Sauna room doesn't let people use lotion, but there are still people who'd use milk, baby oil or even yogurt and hopefully these nutrients will get absorbed into the body through steam.

(to be cont'd)

22Nov/09Off

Wonderful water therapies – Spa, hot spring, etc, Part 5

(cont'd from part 4)

Although nobody ever found a real "Forever Young" hot spring, certain people after many centuries still believe that spa or hot spring those water therapies can keep one young. So many people at least find themselves spiritually refreshed, physically energized and stress relieved after water therapies; some even find that consistent spa can make them feel lighter, lose some weight and hence feel younger. It's somewhat true that most guests in those hot spring resort, swimming pool, spa salon usually leave lively and relaxed. However, these effects may be temporary as well. For example, when we immerse our body into water, blood pressure will go lower, but it goes back up to previous stage when we go back home.

In general, water treatments don't add anything to the water. So does different quality of water or hot spring come with different healing effects?

For a long time, spa in hot spring has been seen as a form of regulating our body. According to Mr. Hong, part of the healing effects is because of our body absorbs the minerals from the hot spring. These minerals activate our cells and strengthen our immune system. A strong immune system definitely help our health. So if minerals are that important for the healing effects, the quality of spring water becomes something to be carefully considered. For example, in Taiwan most hot springs are carbonate spring or sulfuric spring. Carbonate spring is more neutral towards alkaline, while sulfuric spring is more of weak acidic. Because long terms storage and delivery of water would change the state of carbonate spring, hot spring resort can't be too far from the water source. Also they don't add extra water to the spring water because only original water has healing effects, and that's why they'll need some facilities to lower the heat source. As for sulfuric spring, it's acidic so long immersion would hurt our skin. They'll have to add extra water to dilute the acid while making sure it won't lose the healing effects. So the control of pH value would be very important.

(to be cont'd)

19Nov/09Off

Wonderful water therapies – Spa, hot spring, etc, Part 4

(cont'd from part 3)

Mr. Hong, the owner of two hot spring resorts in Taiwan as indicated in the last post, is obviously a big fan of hot spring therapy. He's been trying his efforts to convince tourists and local hot spring goers that hot spring is more than just for relaxing fun and leisure. Mr. Hong is using his over 30 years of expertise and claiming himself as a professional water therapist who help promoting that hot spring can serve as a healing treatment. He showed two physical check reports from a client who used to be a diabetes patient. The first report showed a high blood sugar level. After two and half months of hot spring therapy, this patient had another physical check. The report was surprisingly showing his blood sugar level turned back to normal. The physician who did the physical check was so shocked and reassure with the computer data again because that looked like a mistake. As you'd expect, that was really nothing wrong with the report. Mr. Hong is so confident that a six weeks treatment plan can heal a lot of chronic diseases and make certain improvements.

Japanese has been doing a lot of research and study on hot spring since hundreds of years ago. They already develop a hot spring culture for health purpose. There are over fifty specialized hot spring hospitals in Japan. The diseases they treat include cerebrovascular diseases, chronic arthritis, stroke sequelae, diabetes, digestion disorders, chronic hearts and lungs diseases, neuralgia, "perifpheral circulatory disturbance", back pain, sports injuries...etc.

(to be cont'd)

14Nov/09Off

Wonderful water therapies – Spa, hot spring, etc, Part 2

(cont'd from part 1)

Water therapy is not necessarily a Chinese alternative healing. Considering hot spring is one of the biggest genre in water therapy, it's more common in Japan and Korea. It's also a popular activity in America and Europe as well.

General workers and housewives treat spa or other water therapies as a way to relax and relieve their stress, both mentally and physically. Retired people use water therapies as an effective treatment to relieve the accumulated pain, sore joints and muscles.  Water therapy can heal a lot of different health problems from sprain, swollen feet, sore back, arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, rehabilitation of heart and lungs functions, to stress relief and energy refreshments. A lot of problems that hospital can't help or little problems that we don't even bother to go to hospital, many people choose to go to spa, swimming pool, hot spring and Jacuzzi for solutions.

In fact, the nature of water has been used for treating certain diseases and sickness even by mainstream doctors. For example, the rehabilitation department of many hospitals use the warmth and the floating ability to heal patients who have problems with bones and muscles. Some doctors also recommend swimming as a long term treatment for patients that have disorders of heart and lungs. In Europe, America and Japan, using water therapy as treatments can qualify to claim insurance upon doctor's approval. The major difference of attitude between mainstream doctors and water therapists is that the range of the treatments of the former is not as wide as the later. And water therapists are more aggressive and confident in using water in various areas than mainstream doctors as well.

(to be cont'd)

13Nov/09Off

Wonderful water therapies – Spa, hot spring, etc, Part 1

800px-Onsen_in_Nachikatsuura,_Japan

When we talk about Spa treatment, it reminds us the massage with a effect of calm and comfort; it also reminds us the Jacuzzi with strong water streams that gives totally refreshing experience; and reminds us a pair of strong hands slowly and precisely treat our painful muscles and joints. Water can be so wonderful when we use it for health purpose.

A housewife run to the swimming pool every day taking her daughter to school, not for swimming, but for the Jacuzzi next to the major pool. She works from home for some extra money, but the job requires her sitting all the time which makes her neck and back tight, sore and even painful. The 1-2 hour session getting massage by the water streams in Jacuzzi becomes her best leisure time every day. She can't resist this water treatment that relieves her sore and pain and totally addicts to it.

A retired couple goes to the hot spring 5 times a week. Driving their 25 years old Toyota to the hot spring for a spa is almost like their habit now. 50 minutes of driving seems to worth it. They said they don't have much to do after retired, going to hot spring seem to be the best way to relax. Some friends joke about them taking care of their health as well as taking care of their 25 years old car.

Swimming, water aerobic exercises, hot spring, cold padding, heat padding, bath, shower, Jacuzzi, spa, water streams and different kinds of water therapies actually means using water in any form including hot water and cold water in liquid,  or ice and steam for health treatments. Almost we can do it everywhere from the bathroom, hospital, swimming pool to gym, hot spring and spa. Although water therapies are more for leisure than for curing, but the healing effects are pretty obvious that people start to make it as a healthy habit.

(to be cont'd)

(Photo: This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Chris 73 and is freely available at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Onsen_in_Nachikatsuura,_Japan.jpg under the creative commons cc-by-sa 2.5 license.)