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MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. ? Sgt. Joe Alvarez, a heavy equipment operator with Support Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, uses the backstroke technique to maneuver across the pool. Alvarez uses the water aerobics class to stay in shape while recovering from a lower back injury.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Johnston

Syracuse, N.Y., native rehabilitates through water aerobics

21 Jul 2006 | Lance Cpl. Adam Johnston

To ensure Marines maintain a high level of physical fitness, every man and woman wearing the eagle, globe and anchor is required to take a physical fitness test every six months. To pass, males must do a minimum of three pull-ups, 50 crunches in two minutes and run three miles in 28 minutes.

During his most recent attempt, Sgt. Joe Alvarez, a heavy equipment operator with Support Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, was doing the run portion of the test when, all of a sudden, he felt a sharp pain in his lower back.

After being referred to the base chiropractic clinic by his battalion aid station, Alvarez was put on light duty for 30 days. To help speed up his recovery, the doctor suggested a little known program called water aerobics.

“Water aerobics helps Marines stay mission-ready by providing an alternative source of (physical training) for those with injuries,” said Amy Palmisano, the group exercise mobile coordinator for Semper Fit. “Rather than sitting around and doing nothing while they heal, injured Marines can stay in shape by participating in this class.”

In early 2007, Alvarez will be deploying overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This being his fourth deployment in only six years as a Marine, Alvarez knows how important a healthy body is to overall mission accomplishment.

“Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., I’m at the (Area 2) pool,” said Alvarez. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to get back on active duty.”

Unlike regular exercise routines, water aerobics allows injured Marines to get a thorough workout without the added pain and discomfort, according to Palmisano.

“When I broke the fifth metacarpal in my foot, I was really worried about not being able to exercise,” said Palmisano. “But since treading water doesn’t require any weight-bearing, I was back teaching class the very next day.”

Even after the doctor gives him a clean bill of health and returns him to active duty, Alvarez says he will stick with the program and continue to take water aerobics.

“It’s more of a full body workout, vice going to the gym and only working on certain muscle groups,” he explained. “I’d rather do two hours of swimming than run three miles any day.”