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Zumba: Everybody is talking about this exciting exercise program, but few seem to know much about it.

It is estimated that over fifteen million people practice Zumba today on a weekly basis in over 180 countries.


Zumba has a decidedly Latin American beat, and that’s because it was first performed in countries like Colombia and Brazil. While there is some controversy about who the first Zumba coaches were, most experts agree that choreographer Tommy Campbell made the exercise program popular in North America, starting back in 1991.

And in Utah, we’ve got Kass Martin, the queen of Zumba. About 8 years ago, after first discovering Zumba, she was struck by how easy it was to get ordinary people to move uninhibitedly, to actually dance, as an exercise program when certain types of music were used in exercise classes. So she started to combine mambo, merengue, and salsa dancing music, along with moderate lunges and squats. Many people are still under the impression that Zumba is strictly a warm up routine for professional dancers or Olympic athletes, but, says Kass, nothing could be farther from the truth.

“Zumba is constructed so that anyone from a gangly kid to a middle aged housewife to a retired bank clerk can get out there on the exercise floor and move with a group of people in sync to the driving beat of Latino music. It’s hip-hop and samba for civil servants and Millennials alike!”

She reports, “I was doing a regular aerobics class with about thirty students when one day I forgot my exercise music tape. So I grabbed the first thing I could find as a substitute. It was traditional samba and merengue music, which I love. My students really loved it, too — they began working out at a much higher level of energy, and started to improvise some dance movements to go with the high-octane music. So I began improvising dance moves right along with them, and have never looked back!”

How to do it

Most Zumba classes last one hour. Today you can find classes at any private gym or any public recreation center. Classes are often held outside on the grass, when the weather permits. For senior citizens and those with weight problems, aquatic Zumba has become very popular. Wherever there is a public pool, such as a recreation center or the YMCA, there are probably Zumba classes offered.

While there’s nothing wrong with Zumba exercise all by yourself, the consensus really is that it’s more fun and energizing to work out with a group of like-minded individuals who also get into the salsa beat. The synchronized movements can be almost hypnotic, and many practitioners say that the one hour time frame seems to fly by with a speed that never happened with regular exercise programs.

To enjoy Zumba to the max, it’s best to dress in loose, cool clothing, such as light cotton. Bring along a towel to wipe the sweat off your face and a bottle of NanoHydr8 to keep hydrated during the session. If you have no foot problems, do the class barefoot. Otherwise, a good pair of regular exercise shoes will do the trick.

As with regular exercise classes, a Zumba class will start with some warm up movements — usually involving some leg bending, neck rotation, and arm windmills. As both your body and the music warms up, you’ll begin to use and stretch all the muscles in your arms, legs, and torso, to keep up with the beat and the movements of your instructor. Repetition is key to the Zumba program; just as professional dancers repeat certain movements to create an interesting effect, your Zumba coach will have you doing certain movements over and over again until they become second nature. Once you don’t have to think about them, you’ll begin to improvise variations on them — which is the ultimate goal of a good Zumba program; to incorporate as much free movement into your workout as possible.

The benefits

During a normal Zumba class you’ll burn off approximately one-thousand calories during the hour, depending on how intensely you push yourself.

Each set of muscles in your body will be involved in at least a part of the exercise, which will strengthen them and make them more flexible.

Research shows that music with an insistent beat can actually increase serotonin levels in the brain, which in turn boosts feelings of well-being and also helps with better sleep patterns at night.

Zumba has been shown to be an effective, non-narcotic, appetite suppressor. Persons who do Zumba in the early morning are often able to cut down on their breakfast calories intake significantly.

And, let’s face it, if you’ve got the right moves, you just might wind up with a new boyfriend/girlfriend from your Zumba class! 

Adam Legas

Adam Legas

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