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Sweating over Zumba

Take an in depth look at Zumba, the popular group exercise program.

Group fitness classes are nothing new, but Zumba is not your typical "sweating to the oldies" class from the ‘80s. Forget your leg warmers and ditch the headbands. Zumba is a new craze in the world of group fitness combining hip-hop and Latin-inspired dance moves with strength training and high-energy aerobics.

This widely popular workout class was created by accident in the mid 1990s when Colombian fitness instructor Alberto "Beto" Perez rushed out the door to teach an aerobics class, forgetting his music at home. Without music, Beto grabbed his own CDs, a collection of Latin music, abandoned the traditional count-by-count aerobics moves and let the music dictate the movements. This created a new fitness style he would later name Zumba.

Photo: Samantha Quisgard
Zumba instructor Kristen Exner leads energetic students in Syracuse University's for-credit Zumba class.

A typical heart-pumping Zumba class lasts an hour but is said to be much more exciting than an hour of cardio at the gym.

"I've heard people say that Zumba is like exercise in disguise because you're having so much fun as you're working out that you don't really realize you're even exercising," said Syracuse University Zumba instructor Kristen Exner.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and two strength-training sessions per week for adults. You could spend five half-hour-long sessions on the elliptical machine and lift weights twice a week, or you could knock out those 150 minutes in just two Zumba classes and a quick half-hour walk.

In addition to meeting your recommended dose of exercise, Zumba can help you lose weight. The average 150-pound person can torch anywhere from 400 to 600 calories per class depending on the amount of energy you put into your moves. Just three sessions per week could have you losing a pound every two weeks. Burning the same number of calories would take almost two hours of moderate walking on the treadmill. After a long day’s work, which would you be more excited for: running miles on a treadmill or joining a dance party that kills calories?


7 Tips for the Zumba beginner:

1. Bring Water - You'll be sweating a lot, so you'll need to rehydrate throughout class.

2. Ditch the running shoes - Wear dance sneakers or cross-trainers. Zumba includes a lot of shufflings and turns; running shoes tend to stick to the floor too much, which could result in injuries.

3. Bring a friend - Afterall, Zumba is a fitness party, and who goes to a party alone?

4. Make it your own - Zumba includes a lot of dance moves, but it's not as strict as classical ballet. Add your own style and make each move your own.

5. Don't push yourself too hard - If you have any physical restraints, tell your teacher before you begin class. Most instructors will provide modifications throughout a class that will prevent injuries.

6. Don't skip the cool down - It's important to get your heart rate back to normal following an intense class, so don't leave before the group cool down. Take the few minutes to stretch, relax and catch your breath.

7. Have fun and don't give up - No one will be able to execute all the moves during their first class, so stick with it. Exercising should be fun and if you follow the third tip and bring a friend, you can laugh at each other when you mess up.


View areas in Syracuse that offer Zumba classes:

View Zumba in Syracuse in a larger map

Experience of Zumba

I love to do Zumba. A total workout, combining all elements of fitness – cardio, muscle conditioning, balance and flexibility, boosted energy and a serious dose of awesome each time you leave class..By doing this, a person remains fit , active and healthy

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