Zumba kicks up fitness fun

by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs

7/8/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- For people who dread working out, the Maxwell and Gunter fitness centers may have something to change their attitude. Zumba classes are being offered at Maxwell Tuesday through Thursday at 5 p.m. and at Gunter Friday at 4:30 p.m.

Zumba is a dance-fitness program that couples Latin music with aerobic dance steps. The fitness program has become quite popular over the last few years, according to Airman 1st Class Matthew Flores, one of the class' instructors.

"Since its inception in 2001, the Zumba program has grown to become the world's largest and most successful dance-fitness program, with more than 12 million people of all shapes, sizes and ages taking weekly Zumba classes ... across more than 125 countries," Flores said.

The program has a different environment than most aerobics programs, he said. Instructors try to create a more personal experience with each person in the class.

"Rather than watching the instructor, who has their back to you and expect you to try and follow along, Zumba teaches instructors to face their students. This creates a one-on-one feel and a more welcoming environment, and the fact that it is Latin-based attracts people. With the rhythms and sounds of the music, you can't help but move," Flores said. "Even though some may not get all the moves, I just tell them to shake something, because it's all about moving and getting a good sweat on."

While Zumba is fun and exciting, it is also an effective workout program, said Neysa Etienne, the other class instructor.

"Calorie burn is unique to [Body Mass Index] and other factors; however [in a Zumba class] you will sweat, you will move and you will shake," she said.

"When I was tracking, I would burn upwards of 800 calories teaching a 60 minute class," Etienne said. "Before you know it, you are having fun, getting fit and experiencing greater levels of energy."

People who are less than confident in their dancing prowess do not need to worry, Flores said, because it's easy enough for even the most inexperienced beginner.

"It is very easy to get started, especially in my class. I've been to classes that have more advanced instructors, and it's hard for me to follow along, let alone get a good workout,"

Flores said. "When I teach my class, I create my routines with the students in mind. I understand that very few people have any dance experience, so I make sure I do easy footwork and really focus on the fitness part."

Repetition is another tool he uses to make his class easier. "I make sure I do one move long enough for everyone to get it," he said. "Once they get it, they can really get into the dance and get the best workout possible."

Both instructors have seen great results from people taking the class. In fact, it's the best part of the class, said Flores.

"It's great to see the students who are at every class and to see how their bodies are changing and their arms are toning. Just seeing the results from my class makes me feel, in a small way, I am helping people change their lives for the better."