Getting Fit With Zumba
Zumba has a huge following for a reason – the dance classes are not only fun, they also whip your body into shape. Find out how Zumba can help you reach your health goals.
Zumba is a workout disguised as a dance party — an effective aerobic exercise delivered with a Latin-inspired beat. With dance classes being the most common choice for the more than 24 million Americans who participate in aerobic fitness classes, it’s no wonder that Zumba has zipped to the top of the list in popularity at gyms and fitness centers across the country.
Zumba was brought to the United States from South America in 2001 by its creator Alberto Beto Perez, a Colombian choreographer and dance teacher. Perez first developed the concept by accident — having forgotten to bring his prepared music mix to a class he was teaching one day, he had to improvise with Latin favorites he had in his car.
At first, Zumba classes drew on the music of classic Latin dances, such as the samba, merengue, and salsa. As it evolved over the years, Zumba has added all types of music, from hip-hop to country.
“Unlike other types of exercise classes, Zumba classes are full of people having fun. It’s easy to get caught up in the energy and excitement,” says Zumba enthusiast Lynda Pepper, age 60, of San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Like other aerobic exercises, Zumba uses repetitive and rhythmic motion of the body’s large muscles. This boosts your heart rate and increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the body.
“The Zumba class begins with a warm-up period, and then goes from dance to dance and lasts about an hour,” says Pepper. “The music is exciting and has a driving beat. The class is loud, and there is plenty of laughing and sweating — the hour goes by in a snap.”
Here’s why Zumba dance is such good exercise:
- Interval training. Alternating rhythms such as salsa, hip-hop, cha-cha, and even belly dancing in five-minute segments maximizes body toning and sculpting.
- Calorie burning. In addition to benefiting your heart and lungs, this type of aerobic exercise can help you burn off about 450 calories in one hour.
- Core muscles. Zumba concentrates on the muscles of the abdomen, back, buttocks, and upper legs, which are your core muscles. These are the most important muscles for spine stability and overall aerobic fitness.
Zumba Pros and Cons
Pepper has been taking a Zumba class once a week for about five months. She has always been active and does other types of exercise during the rest of the week. “Zumba is almost constant motion, so it could be hard for someone who is new to exercise,” she says. “There are lower impact beginner level Zumba classes for newcomers,” she says.
Pluses for Zumba include the benefits of a good aerobic exercise, body sculpting, and calorie burning. For those who like the party atmosphere, Zumba is an aerobic workout that is fun and social.
Related: 6 Reasons to Add Strength-Training to Your Workout
Minuses for Zumba include difficulty keeping up if you’re out of shape or have any physical or medical conditions that slow you down. For some people, a dance party might not be motivational. “In my Zumba classes, the average age is between 30 and 40, and we have just a few men,” says Pepper.
Tips for Starting Zumba Classes
As with any exercise class, talk to your doctor before trying Zumba if you have any physical or medical issues. Finding a Zumba class is easy — they’re available at the YMCA, community centers, gyms, and health clubs, and there are now more than 20,000 certified Zumba instructors. Always ask about a Zumba instructor’s experience and training to be sure you’re getting the authentic Zumba fitness class. You can search by zip code for a class near you at the Zumba Web site [Link to: www.zumba.com]
These other tips will help you maximize the benefits of a Zumba class:
- For beginners. If you are new to or just getting back into exercise, ask about beginning level Zumba classes. There are also Gold Zumba classes for seniors with a less strenuous pace and even Aqua Zumba classes for those looking for a low-impact version.
- Getting warmed up. Always make sure your Zumba classes include a good warm-up and cool-down period.
- Be comfortable. Dress comfortably and make sure to have good support for your feet. The lateral movement of the dance steps can put stress on feet and ankles.
- Bring water with you. It’s important to stay well hydrated during a one-hour Zumba class.
Zumba fitness classes are a fun way to burn calories and get in shape. If you like dancing and a party-like atmosphere, try out a local Zumba class. “The more you go, the more you enjoy Zumba,” says Pepper.