CHENNAI: Have you ever wanted an exercise routine that is healthy and fun? Have you ever wanted to learn Merengue, Cumbia, Salsa, Latin-pop, Reggaetton, Bachhata, Calypsio and Samba all at once? If your answer is yes, then Zumba is exactly what you are looking for!

Inspired by Latin American dance styles, Zumba is an aerobic fitness programme that involves movements of various styles performed to the beats of Latin American music.

A typical Zumba session involves muscle strengthening, stretching and cardio exercises deftly incorporated with dance moves. Viewed as a high energy workout, it is seen as an effective way to lose weight.

“You burn about 800 calories in an hour. It is a workout where you exercise all your muscles at a time,” says Sagarika Ganeshyam, Zumba Fitness Instructor at the Russian Cultural Centre.

A research carried out by John Porcari and Mary Luettgen of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science found that participants in a single Zumba fitness class lasting for 32 to 52 minutes burned an average of 369 calories or about 9.5 kcal per minute.

Luettgen says that the reason a person burns a lot of extra calories in Zumba compared to a steady-state exercise like jogging is because Zumba is an interval workout that alternates between high intensity and low intensity movements causing the heart rate to move up and down.

They also found that Zumba burns more calories than cardio kickboxing, step aerobics, hooping and power yoga.

“I lost 13 kgs in just 3 months with Zumba and a healthy diet. It was good fun!” says famous independent singer, Shilpa Natarajan. She says that Zumba helped build her stamina. But more importantly, it helped her find her core. She adds that she enjoyed the catchy music which made her come back to each class.

That’s what makes Zumba stand out. Consistency is the key to any workout. The dynamism and energy associated with Zumba make you want to come back for more!

Apart from weight loss, Zumba has become the perfect solution to a number of health problems. Sagarika explains that Zumba reduces cholesterol, lowers the risk of heart attacks and effectively increases good cholesterol in the body.

Adding to this, Ridhima Suri (32), Official Zumba Instructor and Marathon runner says, “It brings people with low-self-esteem out of their shell and helps them discover themselves. It also helps people get out of depression.”

The advantage with Zumba is that you do not need any experience in dance. As everyone is focussed on mastering the step, no one is judging your clumsy moves.

Old or young, fat or thin – there are different Zumba formats to meet your body type like Zumba toning, Zumba Gold, Aqua Zumba, Zumba Kids and Zumba Kids junior.

Performed in water, Aqua Zumba is a tougher workout recommended for those suffering from arthritis, knee and back problems and injuries. This is because the pressure is not felt in the water, says Ridhima.

“I realised that I had exercised more in water than what I usually did on land,” says Shilpa.

But like any other workout, Zumba needs to be supplemented with a balanced diet. While it is easy to regain weight after leaving Zumba, Ridhima explains that the lung power and capacity developed during the session remain for a longer time.

A certified instructor is an essential ingredient in the Zumba package. They must provide individual attention and find out the health history of each participant to style the workout as per their needs. Zumba classes are less expensive than gym routines. A personal trainer in gyms can easily cost your pocket anywhere between Rs. 1000 and Rs. 10,000 whereas there is no additional expense for a trainer in a Zumba class which ranges from Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 5000 per month.

Slowly becoming the talk of the town, this Latin American workout is being increasingly localised. Grooving to Bollywood songs with Salsa steps has become a common sight. But is that a good thing? Apparently, not this time.

“Around 70% of the music must be Latin as per the Zumba Fitness rules. The class must not turn into a session of Bollywood dancing,” says Ridhima who is working towards standardising the classes with a group of other trainers.

With dance groups and gyms warming up to Zumba, it is important to remember that research studies on the effectiveness of Zumba are limited although there are many positive testimonials claiming its effectiveness. It is advised that you consult your doctor before undertaking any workout session.

As Chennai buckles up to embrace this new form of exercise, are you ready to join the Zumba bandwagon? With classes mushrooming in every neighbourhood, all you need to do is put on your shoes and sign up for this addictive, healthy workout!

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