Two lifeguards sit perched in five-foot-high watchtowers over the pool at the Activity and Recreation Center in Columbia. Their red suits stand out against the expanse of blue water and dark glass that dominate the indoor landscape.
The lifeguards watch closely as a group of children joke with each other as they race up a staircase to the top of a waterslide. Across the pool, a girl investigates the spouting waters of a fountain. And a mother leads her daughter under an archway of thin liquid streams.
In the corner of the pool, a group of women move to the beats of music and follow the lead of a teacher. They wear gloves with webbed fingers, hold foam dumbbells underwater and pull each other by the hands down the lap lanes.
Not all of these women play for fun, though.
“It prepares us for delivery — at least, that’s what they tell us,” says Sarah Stone, a Columbia woman who is in her first trimester of pregnancy.
Stone is a member of a pre/post-natal water aerobics class at the ARC and attends the twice-weekly workouts because it gives her energy and provides stress relief.
Class member Kelley Wampler, who is in her fifth month of pregnancy, likes the physical benefits of the workouts. She says they keep her muscles fit and the exercises are done in a safe way.
Wampler also enjoys the classes because she says it’s an opportunity to network. “It’s a good time to connect with other people that are pregnant and talk about each other’s experiences together,” she says.
The number of participants varies from class to class and is often made up of expectant mothers, mothers who have just had babies and other women looking for a low-impact, high-resistance workout.
It’s no surprise to Kim Milewski, a water aerobics instructor of 20 years, to see the diversity of people in her classes. She says that because the water exercises can eliminate 80 percent of body weight, they keep the heart rate lower and participants don’t tire as easily.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me they can do things in the water that they could never even imagine doing on land,” Milewski says as she towels off after finishing a class. “Plus, it’s fun. You feel like a kid when you’re in the water.”