Zumba your way to fitness in Singapore

It's a workout where the emphasis is on fun.

Participants are actively encouraged to cheer, clap and even sing along to the music as they sweat it out in the studio.

This is Zumba, a combination of Latin-inspired music and dance, and it's for all age groups. A 60-minute session can burn between 500 and 800 calories.

After some trouble finding a new exercise regimen, administrative manager Sarah Grant, 36, found Zumba ideal.

Ms Grant said: "I was finding excuses not to attend yoga and pilates classes I signed up for, and I was worried about not keeping up with Zumba.

"But the music is very fun, it's not monotonous and I felt so energised after a class."

Since signing up for the classes last September, Ms Grant has lost 5kg and has increased the number of classes she attends a week from one to three.

Like body combat and step aerobics, Zumba is a case of follow the leader.

But unlike other "dance" workouts, the instructors do not use step counts. They use the beats and tempo changes of the music to transition the workout from toning and strengthening to cardio.

Dance moves are mixed with lunges, turns and stepping, and the major muscle groups are targeted for a total body workout.

Surprisingly, its creation by Colombian fitness trainer Beto Perez was a happy accident.

At one of his aerobics classes in the mid-1990s, Mr Perez had forgotten his usual aerobics music, so he improvised a routine to some salsa and merengue music he had.

After Zumba became a hit in his home country, Perez introduced it to Miami in 2001, and the latin-dance fitness craze took off internationally from there.

Zumba arrived in Singapore in 2008, and all of the six gyms and fitness studios offering Zumba classes that The New Paper on Sunday spoke to reported at least a 50 per cent increase in the number of classes from last year.

The dance exercise has also hit the heartlands.

Zumba classes were introduced in community centres (CCs) in November last year. There are now 49 CCs offering classes.

There's more than one style to try out.

Zumba Fitness features workouts set to high-energy rhythms, while Zumba Gold and Zumbatomic classes are targeted at the active elderly and children respectively. Zumba Toning uses light weights to emphasise body sculpting.

It currently attracts a largely female following, with women making up 96 per cent of the participants in CCs.

Due to Zumba's flamboyant nature and the hip-gyrating movements involved, first-timers may take some time to warm up to it.

Zumba fitness instructor Matthew Ang, 36, said: "You have to be more open if you're trying out Zumba... Men might be more reserved, so you just have to tell yourself to relax and don't care about anything. Just have fun.

yuensin@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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