Over the years, exercise trends have come and gone with ease, and USHEALTH Group has seen plenty throughout their long history as a health coverage provider. Some do stand the test of time while others are fads that disappear much like many of the diet options that tend to grace store shelves or pop up on infomercials late at night. While the idea of dancing has been around for centuries, it wasn’t until recently that it became taken seriously as a form of exercise. Rather than only using this form of movement to burn calories, individuals from the International Theatre Institute decided to create a day that celebrates this activity, and in 1982, International Dance Day was born.
Celebrated on April 29th each year to commemorate the birthday of modern ballet creator Jean-Georges Noverre, this day allows individuals who love to dance a way to share their message with the world. When dancing and exercising come together, it’s a natural marriage, and activities like Zumba have grown in popularity in recent years due to the fun atmosphere they create. Some may say that Zumba is another such flash in the pan exercise, but many don’t truly realize the history behind this activity.
Can Zumba help to promote a healthy lifestyle and impart noticeable bodily benefits? It’s time to take a deeper look at the origins of this movement, the positives it can bring, and some items to keep in mind when starting any new exercise routine. USHEALTH Group reviews some of the important points you need to know about Zumba:
Where It All Began
It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that Zumba began its rise in American culture, but this set of dance routines draws inspiration from Latin dances that date as far back as the 17th century. Flamenco, salsa, samba, and more all have had a hand in shaping what we know as Zumba, but things came together in Colombia in 1986. Dance teacher Alberto “Beto” Perez used to rely on typical aerobics music during his classes, but one day he arrived without it. As he was in a pinch, he used some Latin music he happened to have with him instead, and many can say “the rest was history.”
Perez taught classes in this way for many years and brought his new exercise sensation to Miami in 1999. Together with Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion, he trademarked the Zumba name in 2001 and showed the country how much fun his dance routines truly were. By 2007, Zumba had grown immensely and was being taught in six different continents and gained acknowledgment from most of the major fitness associations across the world. Each session lasts between 50 and 60 minutes, and individuals can even attend Zumba Academy to become certified in teaching.
What Exactly Is Zumba?
Taking inspiration from Latin dance music is one thing, but how has Zumba transformed into a full-fledged workout that’s found in gyms and athletic clubs across the world? Initially, most people experienced Zumba alongside traditional tunes but over the years the exercise has incorporated everything from country to hip-hop. Described as an interval workout, it has become the top pick of more than 24 million Americans who use dance as a way to get fit.
The basics of Zumba are similar to many other types of aerobic activity, in that repetitive motions are used to increase one’s heart rate and boost both blood and oxygen flow to the rest of the body. A typical Zumba class will involve a short warm-up period, in the beginning, to get everyone’s body ready to dance, then transitions between various dance types for the next 40 to 50 minutes. The atmosphere of these classes is one of many reasons that people love them so much, as laughter and playful energy are often infused into each lesson.
Finding a Zumba class isn’t difficult, as there are more than 20,000 certified instructors teaching all across the nation, with classes being held at varying types of clubs and community buildings. When starting any new exercise regimen, it’s important to consult with one’s doctor to ensure that it won’t exacerbate existing health concerns. Additionally, people who are interested in Zumba should remember to go at their own pace, as the class can become too intense for some.
Beginning Zumba classes are available in some areas, as well as classes designed for seniors and even Aqua courses, offering a lower impact option for individuals who haven’t worked out in a long time or who may have health issues that could affect their ability to safely enjoy the class. Participants should remember to wear comfortable clothing with supportive shoes and drink plenty of water, and above all else, to go at their own pace to avoid injury.
Zumba’s Amazing Benefits
Nearly any type of exercise is recommended for most adults, as it’s essential to living a healthy and balanced lifestyle, but what makes Zumba so great? On the outside, it might just seem like dancing, but this activity brings people a host of unexpected benefits, including:
- An improved social life – Exercise alone is great, but getting to laugh and make connections with other adults is a bonus when it comes to Zumba. The American College of Sports Medicine claims that group activities which include a fun environment and a level of accountability between participants are fantastic. Who knows – not only will Zumba help people to get in shape, but it could be the catalyst for some amazing friendships down the line.
- More gain, less pain – A study conducted in 2016 found that individuals who participated in a 12 week Zumba program ended up having less severe pain and found that their pain didn’t interfere with their day to day lives as often as it did before engaging in Zumba. If losing weight and getting stronger can also help with chronic pain, that’s a winning combination.
- Adaptability at every turn – Other exercise programs are often quite rigid when it comes to the movements they include or the number of repetitions required for a specific action, making them difficult for those new to athletics to become involved. Zumba aims to be all-inclusive and can be scaled to each person’s own needs, allowing it to be one of the more adaptable options out there.
- Improved blood pressure and fitness – Several studies conducted in 2015 and 2016 tracked the cardiovascular health of individuals who participated in Zumba and found that as few as 17 classes were all that it took to show a marked change in blood pressure levels. Zumba movements engage the entire body, so participants end up enjoying a full-body workout every time they attend a class.
- Burning fat and calories – Experts recommend that workouts burn at least 300 calories to effectively encourage weight loss, and the average Zumba class falls just above this figure with 369 calories burned per session. Multiple studies have found that Zumba participation builds endurance and improves cardiovascular fitness in as little as 12 weeks.
Not only are these general positives great reasons to sign up for a local Zumba class, but the routines themselves can help to work on specific areas of the body and encourage individuals to develop their level of fitness in various areas. How exactly can dancing provide such amazing results? Here are just a few things to keep in mind:
Zumba truly is a whole body workout with emphasis placed on specific areas of one’s physique. Most of the dance routines rely on using the hips and midsection, thus helping to strengthen and tone one’s core with ease. More traditional classes don’t focus as much on the muscles in the arms, however, options like Zumba Toning incorporate weights to help achieve a more defined look.
The quads and hamstrings are thoroughly exercised during a 50 minute Zumba class as well, with jumps and lunges designed to work these parts of the body. Additionally, many of the moves will also work the glutes, providing a great way to tone this area instead of doing squats. Perhaps the only area that isn’t specifically targeted during this activity is the back, so for those who are interested in working these muscles, additional exercises may be in order.
A Workout Like None Other
Although it’s been mentioned before, it bears repeating – Zumba is considered to be a full-body workout that’s designed to get people into great shape. By using different sets of dance moves to each song that comes on during the class, participants get to experience interval training oftentimes without even realizing it. This level of aerobic activity provides an exceptional platform for losing weight, increasing endurance, and experiencing an improvement in one’s overall health and wellness.
Both strength training and flexibility are addressed within each Zumba routine, and while the classes aren’t as focused as a yoga session or time in the weight room, participants will find that these areas of their fitness improve over time. Zumba can even be done at home using DVDs that make it easy to follow along, and since there’s no special equipment needed, it can be enjoyed nearly anywhere!
Zumba And Mental Health
USHG also notes that when discussing the latest fitness trends and determining if their benefits are right for specific individuals, most of the time people only consider the physical aspect of each exercise. From losing weight to increasing endurance, these are often priorities while other elements of movement go by the wayside. However, it’s important to remember that moving one’s body regularly can also help to improve another crucial part of one’s wellness – mental health.
Although Zumba is very much its own type of exercise, an interesting study took place in 2007 regarding depression and the influence of dance classes, specifically salsa dancing. Based upon the idea that going to the gym and exercising in traditional methods contributed to people’s feelings of isolation, researcher Matt Birks wanted to explore whether salsa could help to boost one’s mental state.
Using a group of people who all identified as having moderate to severe depression, he examined their progress over nine weeks in which each participant attended eight one hour salsa classes. Some individuals were on antidepressants at the time and none of them had any formal dance training. By the end of the study, Birks found that all participants who stuck with it during the entire nine-week timeframe showed a marked improvement in their level of happiness, with those on medication demonstrating the most change.
While this was simply one study to explore how using dancing as exercise can help to benefit one’s emotional health, it’s worth noting that the group environment of Zumba certainly can’t hurt when it comes to depression or feelings of isolation. If a certain form of exercise can help with both physical and mental health, why shouldn’t people be running to sign up?
Nothing in life is perfect, and despite how exciting and engaging Zumba might seem, health professionals have their fair share of concerns when it comes to just how popular it has become. There is a certain level of risk that’s inherent in any type of physical activity, and with Zumba, the instances of hamstring and calf injuries, muscle spasms, and sprained ankles seem to be on the rise. Sure, individuals in a Zumba class don’t have to worry about sustaining other more common sports injuries like concussions, but that doesn’t mean that a fair amount of caution shouldn’t be used.
While most people who attend a Zumba class have danced before at some point in their lifetime, the atmosphere of this activity can sometimes whip participants into a frenzy and tempt them to get a little ahead of themselves. Each class will vary, but some have been found to offer inadequate levels of warm-ups, thus causing newer students to injure themselves by jumping into the movements too quickly. Make sure to always stretch thoroughly before beginning any workout, especially a dance class.
As Zumba has become more and more popular, some fitness instructors are finding that they have to pack people into a room just to accommodate everyone, and this crowded atmosphere is another recipe for disaster when it comes to injuries. Not only is it difficult for class teachers to see each person if the room is too full, but there’s a high likelihood of literally running into someone else. If a Zumba class seems overly crowded, it’s best to opt for another time or location to stay safe.
Teaching a Zumba class does require certification, however, this process can be completed in as little as one day and only addresses the basic movements needed to lead a group. Those who are interested in trying Zumba should make sure that the instructor has a background in fitness and, if possible, knowledge of Latin dance steps. Additionally, anyone who teaches an exercise class should ask individuals if they have any medical conditions that may prevent them from participating.
Lastly, while Zumba doesn’t require any special type of equipment, athletic shoes with good support are a must. This requirement, however, is contributing to injuries, as many shoes designed for running or other types of activities have treads that are designed for forward movement only. This makes it difficult to engage in the side to side actions that Zumba entails and can lead to hip or ankle issues. As with any new exercise program, it’s essential that individuals consult with their physician to make sure it’s appropriate.
Jumping On The Zumba Train
Those who aren’t crazy about traditional workouts like running or lifting weights may find a new home within a Zumba class, and since this activity has become popular with such exponential growth, it will likely appeal to many. While most classes around the country find that Zumba is primarily enjoyed by women, that doesn’t mean that men shouldn’t attend. Typical age ranges for the activity fall across the board, making it a great choice for a teen athlete who is looking to shake up his or her typical routine as well as older individuals who want to stay active.
Before signing up for a local Zumba class, people should remember to consult with their physician and do a little bit of homework when it comes to the instructor’s level of experience. Purchasing shoes specifically for Zumba may also be a good idea, as well as lightweight clothing and a water bottle. Remember, Zumba can be done at an individual pace, so participants should not feel embarrassed if they need to tone down the movements just a bit to make it easier on their bodies.
Thanks to the simple act of forgetting his typical class music, Alberto Perez started a transformative experience for people across the world. Not only has he helped to introduce Latin music and dance to all parts of the globe, but he’s helped people to reach their health and wellness goals time and time again. If Zumba sounds appealing, there’s a high likelihood that classes are taught at a local gym. Try taking a chance on Zumba and see what this fun dance class is all about!
For further reading, review some of the outreach that USHEALTH Group has done in their local communities through the HOPE program, or check out these pointers from CEO Troy McQuagge on what keeps USHG relevant in an ever-changing marketplace.
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