Dear Fitness Coach,
Some of the gals from my book club are raving about this new exercise craze called Zumba. We are certainly not spring chickens - I am 64 and I’m the youngest! Is this a safe class for someone my age to try - or is it just one of those fads for the 20-something set?
Zumba Zealot or not?
Dear Zealot or not,
It’s never too late to start exercising. Compelling studies have shown that octogenarians (men and women in their 80s and beyond) can benefit by doing regular cardiovascular and strength-training workouts – meaning they enjoy a better quality of life.
The key component with any successful exercise program is consistency over time: Find something that you enjoy doing and stick to it. Many women - and more than a few men as well - have found that Zumba, a Latin dance-inspired cardio workout to be the panacea for a sedentary lifestyle. There is even a type of Zumba program called Zumba Gold, which is a lower-impact version of the dance targeted to the baby boomer set.
So what exactly is Zumba? It’s a high-energy aerobic workout based on dance steps borrowed from merengue, salsa, and other dance styles. The allure derives in part from the perception that a Zumba workout is more like a dance party than an exercise session. It can be liberating, physically and psychologically. So will Zumba go the way of 80s-style high-impact aerobics or is it here to stay? Only time will tell, but, if it gets you up and moving around, it’s beneficial.
These are some things you might want to consider before mamboing into a Zumba class:
- As with any exercise program you should always consult a doctor.
- If you have knee, hip or ankle problems, you may need to modify the routine - avoiding jumps, for instance, or fast hip movements.
- If you are pregnant or have a major cardiovascular, pulmonary or metabolic condition, standard Zumba is probably not appropriate for you. (Zumba Gold, the low-impact version, however, may be fine.)
- Invest in a pair of good cross-training shoes - running shoes are not recommended because of their thick tread.
- Check with the facility that the instructor is not only certified in Zumba, but group fitness as well. The best instructors have a dance background and an understanding of Latin steps, as well as a strong background in fitness, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
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