Cardio gets crazy

Tired of sweating it out on the treadmill? Many are trying out Zumba, aerobics inspired by Latin dance moves. Be prepared to shake it and get ridiculous!

According to Shauna Fontaine (right), ArtSci ’13 and a certified Zumba instructor at the ARC, it’s possible to burn 500 to 1000 calories participating in an hour of Zumba.
According to Shauna Fontaine (right), ArtSci ’13 and a certified Zumba instructor at the ARC, it’s possible to burn 500 to 1000 calories participating in an hour of Zumba.

Trying to keep fit is a challenge for everyone, and let’s be real: who actually enjoys the monotonous, strenuous, asthma-inducing physical activity that society and health practitioners deem so essential?

While critics might dare to call someone like me “out of shape,” that doesn’t change the startling fact that participating in many exercise-related activities honestly make me feel like I might pass out. And sadly, in our culture of ever-present laziness, I know I’m not alone.

A regular exercise-sceptic, I’ve always dreaded being dragged to the gym by my fitness-crazed friends. However, a new workout regime has grabbed my attention: Zumba.

Created by Alberto “Beto” Perez in 2001, Zumba’s combination of fast-paced dance and latin-inspired tunes has inspired millions to get fit and have fun doing it.

Apparently, Perez originally created Zumba by accident: in Colombia, where he taught traditional aerobics classes, he forgot his usual music one day and substituted in the Latin music he had with him.

From there, his new form of dance-fitness grew into what Zumba is today. In 2003, there were 200 Zumba teachers worldwide. The creation of the Zumba Academy in 2005 to teach Zumba instructors sparked the growth of the dance-fitness program. There are now more than 10 million people taking weekly Zumba classes in over 90,000 locations in over 110 countries.

Zumba borrows from a variety of dance styles, including merengue, foxtrot, salsa, cumbia, reggaeton, belly dance, waltz, tango and samba.

In a typical class, 70 per cent of the music must be Latin international rhythms, while the other 30 per cent can be popular music or top 40.

Zumba has even expanded among many studios to include different specialties: Zumba Toning, which incorporates 1.5 lb toning sticks to sculpt and tone the body; Aqua Zumba, which is in the water; Zumbatomic, which is Zumba for kids; and Zumba Gold, which is geared towards older people.

I decided to try Zumba to see what all the hype was about, but mostly because my athletic friend dragged me.

While participating in Zumba, I got a sense of why this method to burn calories is so popular. To put it simply, it’s empowering: I felt like I could be mistaken for an extra in a Shakira music video.

While Zumba is a nice change of pace from embarrassingly difficult forms of fitness (i.e. the treadmill, the elliptical, the bike, etc.), I figured it wouldn’t be for everyone.

One might assume this is no sport for shy people. In the class I was in, inactive participants were actively reprimanded for not wholeheartedly engaging in Zumba’s wide variety of dance moves. While I was definitely not expecting to be sought out for my apparent lack of enthusiasm in Zumba, I took it as a challenge to put away my sarcasm and actually engage in the class, which turned out to be lots of fun.

Shauna Fontaine, ArtSci ’13, is a certified Zumba instructor at the ARC. She said classes started being offered at the ARC in September.

“I have definitely seen how popular Zumba is at the ARC,” she said, adding that she has had to turn people away from her classes when it’s at full capacity of 30 people. According to Fontaine, one of Zumba’s aims is to put the fun back in to fitness.

“People don’t force themselves to go. It’s something you want to do,” she said. “It’s like one big dance party.”

While one could wonder if awkward tendencies get in the way of enjoying this one big dance party, Fontaine said this is a non-issue.

“It’s not about getting the moves right, its all about moving,” she said. “You don’t have to be a dancer to come try Zumba. It’s for normal, average people and it’s meant to be easy to follow.”

So Zumba might be easy enough for relatively coordinated people to follow, but how can a participant get in the mood to exercise to pulse-throbbing Latin beats?

Fontaine presented me with a feasible solution: it is the instructor’s job to ensure that participants are active and the atmosphere remains fun in the class.

“If I see someone that isn’t enjoying themselves, I amp up my energy and dance next to them,” she said.

Problem solved. But does this dancing actually accomplish anything exercise-wise?

Consistent calorie burning and weight loss are realistic, attainable results of a Zumba workout, Fontaine said.

“Zumba is proven to burn 500 to 1000 [calories] in one hour, depending on your fitness level,” she said. “If you want to have a lot of weight loss you also need to follow a healthy diet, but you will be on the road to losing weight with Zumba. Some people put on a couple pounds, but that’s because you’re creating muscle.”

She said many participants have observed differences in their weight after participating in Zumba.

“Especially in the summer when I taught in a gym back home, a lot of middle-aged women with weight issues came up to me and told me they noticed a difference in results,” she said, adding that Zumba is not a gender exclusive sport either.

“The person who created Zumba is a guy! I know several male instructors, but I haven’t had any guys come to my class in the ARC yet.” The longevity of Zumba’s popularity is a testament to how enjoyable it is, Fontaine said.

“It’s been around for 10 years, for starters. It’s proved it has staying power and that it’s effective—you see results. It’s a social experience too,” she said, adding that she became involved with Zumba very recently.

“I personally was introduced to it in [the] beginning of 2009, in my senior year of high school. I just started taking classes and I was hooked,” she said.

If people aren’t used to Zumba, the experience can sometimes be a bit of a shock.

“I taught a Zumba class where people normally do Pilates … At first people were shy,” she said. “When I’m crazy-energetic people can be thrown off.”

The experience of Zumba sounded too good to be true. Having this much fun while working out? Preposterous!

I strove to investigate further and spoke with Bailey Hope Eagan, ArtSci ’12 and a Zumba enthusiast.

While Eagan hasn’t been a Zumba fan for a very long time, she advocates its uniqueness over other forms of exercise.

“I tried it near the end of the year last year. It was different than any other workout … it was hilarious!” she said.

So what differentiates Zumba from other forms of exercise?

“The ridiculousness of it,” Eagan said. “You’re just shaking your booty around. I have no idea what I’m doing, but it’s still fun.”

As opposed to other more disciplined forms of fitness, Zumba does not emphasize the technical, she said.

“It’s not like [the instructor] is at the front saying ‘point your toes’…realistically you just participate to your ability and as long as you’re moving, it’s fun.” Eagan said she has also noticed Zumba’s recent spike in popularity.

“A lot more people have gotten into it recently and are game to try it.”

Zumba classes are offered at the ARC every Monday from 7:35-8:20 p.m., Tuesday from 5:30-6:20 p.m. and Thursday from 4:30-5:30 p.m. Bracelets for individual Zumba classes can be purchased at the ARC equipment counter for $9.

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