Group fitness classes are taking an ethnic turn, experts
say, celebrating diversity by reaching across cultures for inspiration and
combining diverse disciplines to keep workouts fresh and exercisers inspired.
First there was Zumba, the Latin-based dance craze, then
Capoeira, a Brazilian blend of martial arts and dance said to have originated with
16th century slaves. Tabura, a high-energy class that pairs West African dance
moves with military-style punching, jabbing and kickboxing drills, is one of
the newer hybrids.
"I'm excited to see fitness embrace our American
cultural diversity and bring benefits of Latin dance like Zumba or African
dance like Tabura with martial arts from Asia into the mainstream," said
Shirley Archer, an American Council on Exercise spokesperson.
What dance fitness
classes has to offer
Dance fitness classes provide an aerobic workout that can
improve heart health, burn calories and fat and improve mood and endurance,
according to Archer, a fitness and wellness expert based in Singer Island,
Reign Hudson, a fitness instructor at Crunch in New York
City, said she created Tabura, which means drill and endurance in Swahili, by
fusing her two passions."I'd taught West African dance, and then I got
certified in tae bo," she said, referring to the blend of aerobics and
martial arts exercises developed by American Billy Blanks."
Those were my two favourite classes so I decided to bring
them together."The class, which is fired by live conga and junjun drums or
African house music, provides a cardio workout and toning. It also includes
stretching, intervals of dance and drills, leg work and running in place.
West African dance is about storytelling, Hudson explained,
and different dances have different names and action. A dance called Cuckoo is
performed to celebrate a wedding or birthday. Archer explained that integrating
kicks and knee lifts can increase the toning effects for the muscles of the
lower body, while punches and blocks tone the upper body.
movement and rhythm
"One-legged moves improve balance and combination moves
improve coordination, rhythm and timing," said Archer, who has trained in
shotokan karate (Japanese style) and tae kwon do (Korean style).Another benefit
of martial arts moves is that the training is very balanced, requiring equal
repetitions on both sides of the body, she added.
Neal Pire, a strength and conditioning specialist with the
American College of Sports Medicine, said Tabura shares the high-energy aerobic
exercise of other dance fitness classes, like Zumba and Capoeira."It
reminded me a lot of those old simple aerobic classes: you're on your feet,
it's total body, there's kicking. African drums add a little oomph, a little
fire," he said. "It's a style. It works for you if it gets you up off
your butt and moving.