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Staying fit and cool in the pool


What do I need to know before I start pool walking for exercise? I've always been a walker and figure I can intensify my walks and stay cool by adding a pool to the equation.

Pool walking is an excellent, joint-friendly summer exercise. The impact is little to none, and the weight of the water adds resistance. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind before hitting the pool:

Choose an empty lane -- or private pool, if you have access -- to avoid slowing traffic and getting splashed.

Start in waist-deep water (the deeper the water, the harder you'll have to work).

Use a full heel-to-toe stride instead of staying on your toes.

Pump your arms and keep good posture.

Mix it up by walking backward or jogging.

Is starting a vegetarian diet a good way to lose weight?

Some people do lose weight after going vegetarian, but eliminating meat from your diet is not a surefire weight-loss tool, and isn't something to take lightly. Becoming a vegetarian is a major lifestyle change.

If you eat a lot of fatty meats now, it's likely you will lose weight on a fruit- and veggie-heavy diet. On the other hand, if you turn to simple carbohydrates like white bread and sugar in place of chicken, turkey and fish, you will probably gain weight.

But the weight issue is secondary. Vegetarians need to know that plant-based food sources -- with the exception of soybeans -- do not contain complete proteins. To get all nine essential amino acids, which the body needs, those who don't eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs or dairy foods should combine incomplete protein sources (like rice and beans) to form complete proteins.

Consult your doctor before embarking on a vegetarian diet. He or she may also refer you to a registered dietitian, who can help you tailor your new eating plan.

What does "core training" mean? I hear that term thrown around all the time at my health club.

Core conditioning, or "working the core," means strengthening the muscles of the body's midsection. The popularity of Pilates classes and equipment such as stability balls and balance boards has skyrocketed as the core-training trend has grown.

Why all the hype? For athletes, core conditioning can elevate performance by improving balance, speed and strength. A stronger midsection can also improve posture and ease lower back pain.

You can submit questions via e-mail to fitness, or online at baltimore / healthscience, or in writing to The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278.

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