Zumba classes a hit at area fitness centers

Monday, January 21, 2008
Shannon Sievers led a Zumba aerobic dance class Thursday at HealthPoint Fitness in Jackson. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Shouts and applause are typical in Zumba workouts as enthusiasm builds and the group gets pumped.

With a record number of 48 at the first class after their demo Dec. 22, numbers have remained high with more than 35 participants at each session, said Toni Craft, group exercise coordinator at Fitness Plus. "Zumba is blowing our other classes away," she said.

Derived from a word used in Colombia meaning to move fast and have fun, Zumba is a fitness program inspired by Latin dance. Combining belly dancing, merengue, salsa, calypso, reggaeton, mambo, rumba and flamenco dance moves, along with international music, may be part of the reason Zumba has been such a hit at local fitness centers.

Founded by Miami-based dancer and choreographer Alberto "Beto" Perez in the mid-1990s, Zumba was the result of an improvised aerobics class when Perez left all his music for the routine at home. He decided to wing it with music he had in his car.

According to the Zumba Web site, www.zumba.com, Perez believes Zumba takes the "work" out of "working out" by getting people to have fun while they're getting fit.

Shannon Sievers and Pam Adams, co-instructors of Zumba at the HealthPoint Fitness in Jackson, have taught for more than a decade. They took a one-day training course in St. Louis to teach the class. "The music from other countries combined with dance steps that are not too difficult makes people try things they wouldn't ordinarily try, like swinging their hips or shaking their whole body," Sievers said. "There's a lot of variety and new, different kinds of movements. It brings a lot of new faces in."

"We're still learning, too," Adams said. She has subscribed to DVDs and CDs to keep future routines new.

The music cues let you know when a step has changed or just how long to continue with it. Sievers and Adams demonstrate the moves before the music starts and then practice the move slowly, using just the feet, then adding arms and speeding it all up. If a participant doesn't master a particular move, they can try another segment of the routine, helping to eliminate frustration. The move may be repeated in another routine with different music. "If you mess up, you can easily jump right back in," Sievers said.

Shirlee Jones of Jackson, a member of HealthPoint Fitness for four years, was looking forward to the next Zumba class. She'd been wanting some kind of dance class to attend for a while. "I really liked it. I don't feel like I'm working out. I feel like I'm having fun," she said. It was the first Zumba class she attended. "It was a great class. I hope they continue it."

"I think it's invigorating and energetic -- what a lot of people need to get them out and moving," said HealthPoint Fitness of Jackson manager Scott Givens. Jackson's Jan. 10 launch of Zumba brought a record of 56 people in for the class and an average of 30 since then. "This is a high average. We haven't had numbers like that in a while," he said.

Launched Dec. 28 at HealthPoint Fitness in Cape Girardeau with at least 80 people in attendance, Zumba classes are still large -- 50 or more people -- said Amy Sutherlin, fitness manager at the facility.

Sutherlin looks for trends in the group fitness industry to find classes appealing to members. "Dance-based classes are a big trend right now, in part because of the television shows like 'Dancing with the Stars,'" she said.

Zumba was showcased in October on the Today Show and currently has more than 9,000 instructors worldwide.

According to Perez, Zumba classes "utilize the principles of fitness interval training and resistance training to maximize caloric output, fat burning and total body toning. It's a way of mixing body sculpting movements with easy-to-follow dance steps."


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