- Exercise & Fitness
Zumba: Stories About its Origin and How it promotes Weight Loss.
One night, while flipping through the pages of Reader’s Digest, my eyes caught the word, “Zumba,” with a picture of an unlikely dancer, all decked out in cargo pants and belt, doing a dance stance. Looks like fun. Well, looks like he’s having fun. And no typical sports gear too. I read on, compelled by the picture. The article entitled, “Meet the Man Behind the Zumbo: Beto Perez,” reveals some interesting facts: 90 percent of those enrolled in the Zumba dance and exercise fitness class hates to exercise. Now, that’s me....right, I don’t like any kind of grueling regiment for exercise. My exercise routine consists of walking, jogging, hiking—you get it—free and easy with lots of nature appreciation thrown in. No elliptical training or Thai kick-boxing-- they may sound intriguing but I know they require work. But wait a minute, Zumba promises fun with Latin music thrown in. Now, that’s even better—I may not be a dancer but I certainly like to move to music. And Beto Perez promises, “Anyone can do it.” That’s too enticing to gloss over.
I did some research and here are some encouraging findings for the reluctant “exerciser." By my definition, a reluctant exerciser wants to stay in shape, maintain good health and lose some weight but traditional cardio and aerobics have lost their luster or they are too exacting or boring. If that’s the case, consider Zumba, whose motto is “Ditch the workout. Join the party.” Ready to join the party? But first, I think Beto Perez deserves some proper introduction, since he’s the guy who bought Zumba into existence:
Beto Perez--Creator of Zumba
Beto Perez is the embodiment of success stories. Like most success stories, his big break didn’t come easy – his persistence and absolute love for dance finally put him on the spot. In the wonderful spotlight of fame and fulfillment. Born in Cali, Columbia, Beto had to work three jobs to sustain his family—his mother was injured by a stray bullet when he was just 14. But his real passion lies in dance, inspired by the movie, “Grease.” With no money for dance lessons, Beto made up for it with raw talent and it didn’t go unnoticed. He won the National Lambada contest when he was only 19 and with that, he was offered a scholarship to study dance while he was teaching aerobics. One day, he forgot his music for his class. Thinking on his feet, he used the Latin music he taped from his radio and improvised dance moves to it. Zumba was born.
But Perez didn’t stop there, he had dreams of taking his workout classes to America. After four trips from Columbia to Miami, he caught the attention of one manager who invited Perez to teach her. What was intended for one person attracted an audience of 15 and it generated so much interest, people were asking how they can enroll.
As they say, the rest is history. That was 1999. Today, five million people take classes every week from 30,000 instructors in 75 countries from Canada to China. More than four million DVDs have found their way into homes and Zumbagear is gaining popularity.
What is Zumba?
Zumba (pronounced “zoomba,”) is Columbian slang for “buzz like a bee and move fast.” It is an hour-long workout with easy to follow fast dance moves alternating wtih slower ones for an interval-training workout that tones muscles and burn hundreds of calories. All these while jiving to Latin music with an eclectic ensemble of mambo, salsa, cumbia, reggae and calypso. Some pop music are also utilized (Beyonce’s “Single Ladies and Boom Boom Pow to mention a few).
You can zumba at home with the help of DVDs, but nothing beats going to class. The party mood is evident as people of all ages swivel their hips and shimmy to the upbeat tempo. The camaraderie is electrifying as you work out a sweat and you don’t even mind it. As Perez says, “Most of our students hate to exercise. But when the music starts, they forget that.”
Diane Walterstiel, 55, of Alpharetta, Georgia, enthused, “It’s not like a workout. Before I come, I’m tense, but when I leave, I could kiss the world.”
Another Zumba fan, Lilieth Burke, 48, said, “Zumba is not a punishment. I feel fit, I sleep better, I feel better, I feel younger and I feel I can live another 48 years.”
Benefits of Zumba
But fun and party aside, how does Zumba stack up with cardio and aerobics exercises?
According to exercise physiologist Nicole Gunning, Zumba can provide a great cardiovascular workout which includes” calorie burn, increased aerobic threshold, more stamina, increased bone density, improved balance and muscle tone, less body fat, and lower blood pressure.”
Wedmd lists other aesthetic benefits of Zumba:
- Great mental exercise, giving you sharper minds
- Tighter abs
- Sculpts body
- Social connections
To achieve maximum benefits from your Zumba sessions, lose the inhibitions—let go and enjoy. Dance like no-one is watching! Or if you enjoy attention, dance like everyone is watching.
Zumba Craze Spreads...
So, what are you waiting for? Put on your workout shoes and reach for that baggy pair of cargo pants and head out to the nearest gym or dance center offering Zumba and shimmy away. Your waist will thank you and so will your heart. But not just yet—here are a few things to note before you join the party.
The dress code is as easy to put together as the dance moves—a top and a pair of baggy pants. For ladies, sports bra can give you support as you bounce around. For men, tanks will do. Cargo pants are preferred, though any loose pants or shorts will do.
As for footwear, Zumba instructor, Stephanie Maxim, recommends a pair that has more of a flat base as you have to do a lot of pivoting. A pair with a flat base with a cushiony inside can lessen the feel of torque on the knee.
And don’t forget your water and a towel –you will need them.
Join the Party
If you’re new to Zumba, the creative geniuses at Zumba have come up with a new easier to follow dance routine, called Zumba Gold. It is slightly shorter, lasting about 30 to 45 minutes. Designed for individuals with very little exercise experience, individuals with physical limitations (even those on wheelchair) and the older inactive adults, it promises to deliver as much fun as the basic Zumba workout.
If you're already exercising on a regular basis, Zumbia would be another fun activity but at any rate, anyone can do it. Be sure to check with your doctor or health provider before embarking on any exercise program.