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week96Several years ago, my longtime friend Jennifer O. sent me a text telling me to meet her at her gym to join in a Zumba® class. At the time, I never heard of it the class. All I knew is it was some type of Latin-inspired aerobic dance-fitness class. Like always, I was up for a new endeavor and so I met her.

I positioned myself a couple behind the instructor so I could follow along easier. The upbeat music started pumping and so did the dance moves. I felt like I was playing Simon Says as I was constantly one step behind the teacher as she wiggled, twisted, turned, spun, and shook. What had I gotten myself into? While I am very athletically inclined and have excellent hand eye coordination, moving my body naturally to music and memorizing choreographed dance moves was never one of my personal fortes. But I carried on and noticed others simply loving the class, easily mastering the moves as Zumba veterans.

Created in the 1990s by Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez, the word “Zumba” derives from a Colombian word meaning to move quickly and have fun! The energizing group exercise is growing in popularity with over 14 million people partaking in weekly classes in over 140,000 locations across more than 150 countries. The fun motto of the program is “Ditch the workout; join the party!” – ideal for those who don’t like to workout. Classes are typically one hour long and fuses aerobic activity with contemporary dance moves from various Latin styles – hip hop, samba, salsa, flamenco, soca, merengue, mambo, tango, and others – to nightclub-style choreography and heart-pumping music.

A great FYI is that there are several different types of classes of Zumba available; hence there is a class for every age and every ability level. In addition to the regular Zumba fitness classes, there is Zumba Core, which focuses solely on strengthening your mid body. Zumba Toning targets your abs, thighs, arms, and other muscles while Zumba Circuit features strength exercises on various circuit-training stations in timed intervals. ZumbaKids is specifically for kids, 4 to 12. Zumba Gold and Zumba Gold-Toning are both designed with the older generation in mind. Zumba Sentao is a chair workout, focusing on using your body weight to strengthen and tone.

The benefits of Zumba are many. Participates burn an average of 400 or more calories during an hour-long class. That tops step aerobics, hooping, power yoga and cardio kickboxing! Other benefits of the full body workout include better cardiovascular health, improved coordination, and increased mobility. It’s a total body toner, relieves tension and stress, and releases your blissful endorphins. Best of all, you don’t even feel like your exercising!

If you have yet to take a Zumba class, join in the next time your gym has one scheduled. You will quickly forget you where you are as you are mentally transported to a tropical oasis while you wiggle, twist, turn, spin, and shake to better health.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.