Belinda Durling and Julie Bendixsen are old friends who still have a lot in common: They were college roommates at Utah State University. They're teachers. Now they're both expecting their first babies in August. And on this hot Thursday evening, they're side by side with two other friends in 90-degree water, stretching and exercising their way through a prenatal water aerobics class.
Instructor Kathy Hoenig has taught water aerobics for six years to women just before and after they give birth. She believes it's a great form of exercise because the water provides resistance and a real cardiovascular workout without "beating up the body the way you can on land.""It's a gentle way to get a real workout," she said. "Water provides more resistance with less damaging effects."
The classes are informal, with no attendance requirements, so women show up when they can. And it's an often-changing group as the women have their babies and move into the post-natal class that's held right after the prenatal one (about 6:50 p.m.) or move onto other things.
And post-natal, by the way, means almost anything. The class currently includes two women who are grandmothers. They first attended with a woman who had recently had a baby. She eventually dropped out; they stayed on.
"I think some of the big benefits of (prenatal water aerobics) is it gives you a chance physiologically to get the benefit of exercise but there's no competition and everyone works at her comfort level," Hoenig said.
Besides the physiological perks, she explains, there are psychological and social benefits.
"The women tell me how relaxing it feels. They say they sleep like babies," she said. "And it's a fun social place. They tell each other stories and ask each other a lot of questions."
It also builds stamina to help women go through the rigors of delivering a baby. Women who have had multiple pregnancies said the aerobics gave them "more oomph." And they say they get back on their feet faster following birth because they are in better physical shape.
"I like water aerobics because it's easy on the body," said Durling. "And it's something to keep me in shape. I don't have near as much back pain since I started doing it, and I feel good."
Durling said she's mostly counted on walking to keep her healthy.
Bendixsen has always relied on "things that are fun," she said, like in-line skating and walking. "Fun, not exercise."
She puts the water aerobics class into that category partly because it's fun to see friends and to share stories and experiences with other pregnant women, she said.
About half the women in the class, which meets at 5:50 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday in the Medical Arts Center at Pioneer Valley Hospital, 3336 S. Pioneer Park Road, are expecting their first child.
"I just wanted to have some sort of exercise," said Jennifer Petersen, who has long done aerobics on her own. But with a baby due in October, she wanted to slow down a little and still stay fit. "This is relaxing and not so intensive."
Kammie Jones, the fourth member of the group, first tried water aerobics with her mother. "Mom comes here for wellness therapy for her back. I came with her for a month."
It's a slower pace than the step aerobics and other exercises she did during high school and college. And it isn't her only exercise: She walks for 40 minutes three or four times a week. But the workout, using water resistance, will help her stay toned up for her July delivery and beyond. That beyond is crucial, she said, because she's scheduled to start coaching soccer at Granger High School next year.
As much as anything, though, she's interested in talking to the other women.
"It's really fun to socialize and exchange stories," she said.
Not everyone in Kathy Hoenig's class is a teacher. Michelle Jeffs is a travel agent who's expecting a baby girl in August and walks on a treadmill to keep fit.
Others have different jobs and interests. But they all want to be healthy and have healthy babies.
Cost of the class is $3 a session. Hoenig said the first visit's free, so women can get an idea if it's something they really want to do.
Pregnant women should check with their doctors to make sure the class is OK for them during the pregnancy, Hoenig said.
For more information on the classes, call 964-3903.