Updated 05 July 2013

Zumba: a party at the gym

Latin American music pumping at high volume, hips swaying violently – sounds like an 18-year-old out on a Friday night? Well, actually it was this 30-something's Monday at the gym.


Latin American music pumping at high volume, bodies shimmying and hips swaying violently – sounds like an 18-year-old out on a Friday night jol? Well, actually it was this 30-something's Monday night… at the gym.

Zumba is an exciting new form of exercise, and has only just landed in South Africa. Simply put, Zumba is an aerobic workout done to a Latin American beat. The exercise combines Latin American dance moves, like the salsa, cha-cha and mambo, with body sculpting movements to create a workout that is energetic and fun. Naturally the Zumba is done to the beat of Latino music – salsa, merengue, reggaeton and more.

Flirt yourself fit
The group of gyms that has just introduced Zumba to its repertoire is selling it as a way to "flirt yourself fit" (well, my class consisted of a handful of women, so as far as I could tell no actual flirting took place). The reasoning behind this, I guess, is because of some of the sexy moves it requires – think of some of the salsa dance scenes from Dirty Dancing or Take the Lead. Zumba entails a lot of hip swinging, shimmying (for those who don't know, shimmying is a way of shaking your bum at about 200rpm) and another move I can best describe as a "pelvic roll" – not entirely sexy when I do it, but definitely provocative when the instructor does it.

If I can do it, anyone can
Zumba is praised the world over for its simplicity and you need no formal dance experience, no partner, and no fancy equipment or shoes to do it. Although it takes some concentration to follow the class, the steps are fairly easy, and once you "snap" it, it becomes more of a party than anything else.

Although the pace gets pretty fast at times, you don't need to be particularly fit. An exercise session lasts an hour, but is broken into intervals the length of a song – which is about four or five minutes at a time.

Zumba is great cardiovascular workout and if done regularly will also tone the legs, arms, abs and back.

The origins of Zumba
Zumba's roots lie in South America where the Latin American dance styles – the salsa, samba, cha-cha, mambo, ramba and others originated. Legend has it that the "Danza de los voladores" or "Dance of the fliers" were street parties or carnivals of sorts where people would dance sensually, clad in vibrant costumes to forget their troubles.

This served as inspiration to the Columbian gym instructor Alberto 'Beto' Perez way back in the late 80s when he forgot his gym music tapes (do you still remember those from back in the day of Pop Shop 40 and whatnot) at home, so he had to make do with the other tapes he had in his car.

The soulful energetic music soon transformed the gym class into a mini "Danza de los voladores" and the rest, as they say is history. Today there are more than 25 000 instructors who teach it to millions of enthusiasts in over 40 countries around the world. – (Wilma Stassen, Health24)

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