Dance craze will get you in shape

Published 9:04 pm Friday, March 18, 2011

Crystal Cleckley, certified Zumba instructor, dances her class into shape with the simple yet energetic rhythmic choreography of Zumba Fitness at the local YMCA.

Intertwining fitness and rhythmic-movement, aerobic classes provide a way to get in shape outside of the weight room and treadmill, and have fun doing it. It is especially true for the rapidly growing, worldwide trend of Zumba.

Zumba, a dance fitness program for all ages, is a fusion of Latin and international music in dance routines featuring aerobic and fitness interval training.

Invented in the 1990s by famous choreographer Alberto (Beto) Perez in Colombia, the class began gaining its popularity in 2001.

“It’s simple moves with high intensity,” said Crystal Cleckley, Zumba fitness instructor at the Chilton County YMCA. “After leaving my session you would have burned 1,000 calories and performed 300 crunches.”

The dance fitness class made its debut in Chilton County at the beginning of this year at the local YMCA, Anytime Fitness and Cornerstone Fitness and Wellness.

“Zumba is for everyone,” said Renee Ousley, Zumba instructor at Cornerstone Fitness and Wellness. “We love seeing mothers and daughters, women in their late 60s and 70s and children attend the classes.”

People who have never stepped foot in a gym are attending, she said.

Zumba can be as high or low impact as the instructor would like. The interval training of the program increases the heart rate and permits for recovery time that allows for maximum calorie burn.

“Zumba is a system, and its songs and dances raises and lowers your heart rate, keeping it going up and down,” said Stephanie Strong, Zumba instructor at Cornerstone Fitness and Wellness. “Also, your core is engaged and targeted at all times.”

With clean and upbeat music, Zumba is an effort to make exercise fun.

“Music is the key ingredient to Zumba – it’s the energy,” said Ousley. “Unlike a regular fitness class there are breaks in Zumba music. The different intervals and choreography causes muscle confusion.”

Zumba is done to a combination of fast and slow rhythms and borrows from an array of numerous dance styles including: Cumbia, salsa, merengue, mambo, flamenco, cha-cha-cha, Reggaeton, samba, belly dancing, Bhangra, hip-hop and tango.

To accommodate their classes, instructors choose which dance styles to incorporate into a dance fitness “party.”

The score, created with specific beats and tempo changes, transitions the workout from one toning, strengthening or cardio move to another and targets every major muscle group in the body.

“Zumba is a full-body workout and you don’t know or even realize you’re working out,” said Cleckley. “The upbeat tempos and doing it with a group of people gets your mind off of the actual workout – it’s a party.”

The program also serves as a stress reliever, helps with balance, brain functions such as memory, coordination and creates endorphins.

In Zumba, the body will endure level changes in movements; working the shoulders, flexion, cardio, steps and turns; arm-coordinated movements; lounges and squats; core; triceps and biceps; traveling steps and more.

“It’s a party atmosphere so no one will feel intimidate,” said Strong. “It’s a fun fitness environment and a social time as well.”

There are different types of Zumba classes offered in the program that can be found at different fitness centers around the world including: Zumba, Zumba Gold, Zumba Toning, Aqua Zumba and Zumbatomic.

“People like it because it is different and it is fun,” said Cleckley. “There is never a dull or boring moment because from week to week there is new music, new choreography and you workout from head to toe.”