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Get fast, fast and strong using non-contact martial arts-inspired exercises to fuel cardio fitness and train the whole body. Punch and kick your way to fitness. This high-energy martial-arts inspired workout is totally non-contact and there are no complex moves to master. You'll release stress, have a blast and feel like a champ.
Here at the YMCA, we believe in encouraging people no matter where they are in their health journeys. We strive to provide a variety of resources to help our members achieve their goals. An example of this includes pools, which are in nine of our facilities across Greater Oklahoma City. In these pools, thousands of adults and children have learned to swim, parents have thrown hundreds of birthday parties and, of course, swimmers have logged likely millions of laps at meets and as part of their exercise regimen.
Swimming targets every system in the body – from your head to your toes, and from your heart to your lungs. Swimming trains the body to use oxygen more efficiently and improves muscular strength and flexibility.2 It’s also easy on the joints, which makes it the perfect workout for any age and fitness level.3 If you’re looking for a vigorous yet low-impact workout, swimming might be for you.
We know at least one YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City member who agrees. Hisham Kanaa is a self-proclaimed “fish” who says he tries to swim about 20 laps every day at the North Side Y. Growing up in Syria, he initially swam for fun, but he developed such a love for it that he began to swim competitively in his youth. He was also an accomplished high diver. Nearly half a century later, and in a different country, his motivations for getting in the pool have now shifted. Mr. Kanaa’s doctor advised that either swimming or walking every day would help with blood circulation and keep his heart healthy. As someone who has been swimming almost his entire life, he seems pretty pleased with that “prescription.”
However, this is not an uncommon recommendation from doctors who see older patients. After all, blood circulation becomes more important as we age. But why is that?
There are many answers to this question, but one of them points to plaque build-up that forms in arteries. This accumulation of plaque hardens and narrows the arteries, making it more difficult for oxygen-rich blood to flow through the body.4 Oxygen-rich blood is essential to a properly functioning body since every cell, organ and tissue need oxygen. Plaque build-up weakens and damages the heart over time because the circulatory system’s efficiency and effectiveness diminish, and the heart has to work much harder as a result. Aerobic exercises like running and swimming help blood vessels keep free of atherosclerosis (plaque build-up) and can lead to new coronary vessels in your heart, which dramatically reduces the risks and severity of heart attacks.5
This brings us back to Mr. Kanaa and his swim routine.
As he engages in this aerobic exercise, he’s strengthening the most important muscle in the body: the heart. As his heart contracts more, it becomes more efficient at pumping, leading to better blood flow throughout his body. For about 3-4 hours a week, he’s basically asking his heart to do a fast, forceful sweep through his arteries to get oxygen and nutrients to the rest of his body.
The reason his arteries are able to do this so well is because swimming (and similar exercises) helps to keep them flexible and in good shape. This is similar to a ballerina who maintains her flexibility by practicing every day. As the saying goes, ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it.’ If Mr. Kanaa does this often enough (the typical recommendation is 150 minutes a week), a scenario in which plaque build-up is prevented, stalled or reversed is more likely to occur.
Swimming can work wonders on your heart and overall health. Even if the benefits weren’t as remarkable, Mr. Kanaa would probably still swim just as often. Without a pool, he’s a fish out of water.
If you don’t know how to swim, have no fear! We have swim lessons for people six months and older. Visit our programs page to learn more.
February is American Heart Month. We encourage you to take actions today that will keep your heart happy and get you where you want to go on your personal health journey. If you’re considering adding swimming or another aerobic exercise to your current workout routine, we advise that you consult with your physician beforehand.
1 Bethany, Earlywine Park, Edward L. Gaylord Downtown, Midwest City, Mitch Park, North Side, Rankin, Rockwell Plaza and Stillwater YMCAs.
Most people have grown up learning about the many benefits of exercise. Working out burns calories, reduces the risk of heart disease, improves sleep quality, helps the body manage blood sugar and insulin levels, improves mental health, mood and more. The list goes on and on as far as the eye can see. What most people haven’t grown up learning, however, is that researchers are only beginning to get a more complete picture of exercise’s medicinal benefits.
Earlywine Park YMCA member, Carlene Hammonds, began to research ways to end Parkinson’s disease (PD) when her beloved husband, Rich, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, PD is a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. The symptoms usually emerge slowly and, as the disease worsens, non-motor symptoms become more common.
Carlene’s research led her to a report discussing the correlation between heavy exercise and an improvement in noticeable PD symptoms such as loss of muscle control, trembling, stiffness, slowness and impaired balance.
“If you have Parkinson’s disease and you want to delay the progression of your symptoms, you should exercise three times a week with your heart rate between 80 to 85 percent maximum. It is that simple,” said Daniel Corcos, a study co-lead author and professor of physical therapy and human movement sciences at Northwestern University.1
Most Parkinson’s researchers agree that intensive exercise will help delay the progression of PD symptoms, however, the delay varies from person to person. Heavy exercise has been shown to significantly slow down the progress of PD because it keeps the mind and body connected. It seems that intense, coordinated exercise requires the brain to work together with the body and muscles. Other studies also focused on the positive chemical side effects of heavy exercise including increased blood flow, oxygen, and additional dopamine and endorphins in the brain.
Regardless of why it works, to the Hammonds, the existence of a solution – however temporary – was very encouraging. Carlene’s research pointed to a tangible solution, and Rich, who already enjoyed exercising, couldn’t help but see this as good news. To think that an increase in the frequency and intensity of Rich’s workouts could help his symptoms improve was reason enough to try. Rich began working out five to six days a week. He “took” exercise almost as one takes their daily medications.
Soon, they began to see that the research was onto something. Heavy exercise reversed Rich’s PD symptoms. For 17 years, Rich was doing much better than the neurologists had predicted. Everyone who knew of Rich’s story was amazed at the results. Early in 2020 when COVID-19 restrictions caused the Y to close, the family noticed that Rich’s Parkinson’s began to progress quickly.
Since re-opening, Rich has started working out intensely again trying to regain the muscle control and strength he had prior to the coronavirus restrictions. For motivation, he has set his sights on exceeding the Olympic weight-lifting record for his age group.
The Hammonds family is thankful the Y is open so Rich can workout at the intensity his Parkinson’s disease requires. Many people like Rich rely heavily on our facilities for their physical health, which is part of what made shutting down in March and April so difficult.
We are hopeful that Virtual Y OKC will be able to offset any potential closures that happen in the future, as well as offer a safe environment for high-risk individuals to continue their health journey. It is our belief that Y members can continue to get a great workout with Virtual Y, even if it’s outside our facility walls.
When you join the Y – you connect to a healthier life.