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Zumba: Fun Is Secret Ingredient of Latin Dance Workout

In Zumba exercise classes, it's all about feeling the music.

No Complex Choreography continued...

Part of Zumba's appeal is its simplicity, says Perlman. Teachers are encouraged to forego complex cueing, and just let the students feel the music, he says.

"Other classes do complicated choreography. ... You need to pay attention," he says. "Zumba uses four or five steps in one given song and you keep repeating."

Sometimes, says Perez, people even forget they're in a fitness class.

"It's incredibly upbeat," says 39-year-old Jennifer Brooks, of Pittsburgh. "It's like going out with the girls dancing."

"I've never smiled more in an exercise class," says Pittsburgh's Deb Bogan, 59. "I laugh out loud, I sing."

And, Bogan says, she's not alone in feeling that way: "When I look around at the faces of these middle-aged to older adults, their faces are like the faces of children on the playground."

Benefits of Zumba Exercise

Zumba lovers credit the dance craze with freer inhibitions, sharper minds -- and tighter abs.

"It changes your body better than body sculpting," says McCalister. "Since I've started teaching Zumba, I've lost inches. My body has slimmed down. I've had to replace all my fitness clothes."

Though Bogan says she's always been a "gym rat," she admits to being uncoordinated. "I never had great balance," but since practicing Zumba, she says, "I can stand on one foot as long as I need to."

Bogan says learning the new dances is great mental exercise, as well: "I'd rather do this than Suduko."

Exercise physiologist Nicole Gunning invites a Zumba instructor monthly to teach her Adventure Boot Camp students in Morris County, N.J.

As with any cardiovascular workout, says Gunning, the benefits of Zumba can include calorie burn, increased aerobic threshold, more stamina, increased bone density, improved balance and muscle tone, less body fat, and lower blood pressure.

"It's a decent cardio workout as long as you're OK with letting yourself go," says Gunning. "You have to be uninhibited to get the most benefit out of the workout."

Perez says Zumba fanatics come for more than the calorie burn, however.

"Zumba is more of a philosophy," says Perez. "Sometimes people go for therapy, sometimes they go for social connections, sometimes they love to dance and there's no time. Zumba is the perfect excuse."

Reviewed on November 12, 2010

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