What is Zumba? Is Zumba Right for You?
Zumba is a dance aerobics that blends Latin (specifically, Columbian) influences with other Latin musical styles. Is it samba or meringue? Does it sound like mambo or samba? Does it remind you of belly dance or Bollywood? Could it be martial arts or hip-hop? Whatever it is, Zumba is one exhausting exercise class. Readily available at a health club in your area, Zumba will make you forget Jane Fonda's exercise tapes.
Benefits of Zumba Class
A typical Zumba class cycles aerobic training with fast and slow musical rhythms. It tones and molds the body with a lot of fun. Not for the faint-of-heart, Zumba classes almost exclusively attract women who seem a little less reserved about letting themselves go for an hour of fun. What can this fun do for you?
o Build up your heart: Aerobics, by definition, are focused on heart-health. A commitment to aerobics for 30--60 minutes 3 times a week will strengthen your lungs, unclog veins and arteries, and deliver richer blood to the brain.
o Dance the weight away: Studies show that one hour of Zumba will burn 400 calories. Now, you can do that in about an hour of stationary bike riding, too; however, Zumba is a lot more fun.
o Balance the results: Dancing, of its nature, utilizes eye-hand coordination, balance, and posture. These behaviors are particularly valuable in seniors. Good balance and coordination should improve posture and reduce falls.
o Release the smile power: Aerobics will also produce endorphins. These hormones increase in your blood system after exercise - which is why you always feel up after a workout. Aerobics do not make your troubles go away, but Zumba can help you focus and put problems into perspective.
Where to find a Zumba Class
Zumba classes are available almost everywhere. Check out your local "Y" or health club. There are even Zumba dance clubs with certified teachers that move from house to house. Or, you can do it yourself at home while watching a DVD or listening to a CD (but, this does eliminate the group fun therapy that is part of the real success).
What to Expect from Zumba
Wear very comfortable clothing and drink a lot of water before, during, and after your session. Show up for your first session ready to watch and listen to the music. Zumba instructors do not talk much. They are more inclined to demonstrate and use gestures - as you might find in a tai chi class. In time, you will learn the rhythm and repetition of the music and exercise steps.
Merengue is a dance that is marked by a 1-2 marching rhythm. You do not lift your knees high, but you do make circular motions with your arms near your waist.
Salsa has a 1-and-2 triple step rhythm that makes you over around a little more. You move your right foot to the right on the first beat while your left foot steps in place. You, then, move your right foot back on the 2 beat. You repeat this with your left foot taking the lead.
Cumbia requires you to keep one side stays still while the other foot dances back and forth. Then, the motion moves to the other side.
Reggaeton is a kind of tribal dance that stomps feet and bends knees while you stay low to the ground.
Belly dance and hula put demands on the waist and love handles.
Bollywood uses flowing arms and moving around in circles.
Hip-hop music may take you into the running man or urban dance moves.
And, the one thing you should notice is that all these steps involve a lot of booty action, working the waist, buttocks, love handles, and glutes. But, there is also upper body movements working your biceps, lats, and upper back muscles.
Are there risks of Zumba?
I have noticed that Zumba classes require you to waive their liability if you are injured. The internet has hundreds of sample waivers because sponsoring locations do not want to assume the liability of injuries incurred. That is enough for me to ask, "What could happen?"
If you are pregnant, you should consult your doctor. No two pregnancies or carrying mothers are the same. In any case, you should not do more than you are comfortable with - and you should hydrate constantly throughout the workout.
If you have knee complaints, Zumba may not be for you if the instructor does a lot of squat and/or thrusts. Sit those out, or ask the instructor if you are doing the exercises correctly.
If your feet are hurting, you may have the wrong shoes. Everyday sneakers or tennis shoes will not help you, here. Invest in a quality pair of Zumba shoes which have no ridges, great support, and ample cushioning. You need to move with speed in stepping, turning, and sliding motions, so anticipate what you need and ask your shoe store professional to help you out.
If you have osteoporosis or arthritis, Zumba might be danced with caution. Depending on the class, Zumba can be high-impact with some stomping and joint flexion. You should not do anything that hurts you; pain is the first contra-indication. At the same time, regular exercise will strengthen bones and improve range of joint motion, so you might stay with a beginner's class.
The advantage of the Zumba class experience at your local "Y" or fitness club is the group activity rewards of social contact, laughter sharing, and struggle sharing. Still, you can find many Zumba routines for sale on the web and many youtube.com videos to clue you in and build your courage. But, if dancing is what it takes to make you move, then, Zumba it is! Go for it!