Author: Larkin Grant, SPT
Last year, I found myself dreading going to the gym, working on my same routine and pushing myself on the treadmill. I was looking for a magical way to workout, but not have it feel like actually doing any work. Then I stumbled into my first Zumba class and found exactly what I was looking for! Zumba is a dance fitness class that incorporates Latin and hip hop moves to improve cardiovascular function, mobility, strength, and even memory.
From a PT perspective, Zumba is an excellent way to keep in shape and have fun. Many research studies have been performed on the benefits of Zumba classes. Some results you would expect, such as a decrease in body fat, heart rate, and blood pressure. Others effects are more surprising! Zumba also improves intrinsic motivation to exercise which means just going to Zumba means you are more likely to want to exercise! People who attended Zumba reported a decrease in pain and an improvement in quality of life.
If you or someone you know is interested in joining in on the fun, here are some pointers to keep you “zuming!”
1. If you have knee problems, keep your knees straight ahead of you. There are lots of moves in Zumba where the instructor incorporates knee twisting. If you feel any discomfort in your knees, march in place or keep your knees straight over your toes. Even if everyone else is turning or twisting, you can march in place or do the moves to the front if you have pain.
2. Buy the right shoes. During a Zumba class, you want to have shoes that keep your feet and arches supported. Furthermore, many retail stores sell shoes designed specifically for dance fitness classes, with a circle on the bottom of the shoe by the toe that allows you to twist and pivot with very little resistance. If you have tennis shoes with a lot of grip and tread and the floor is not slick, you will be putting a lot of extra pressure on your knees. Try to look for shoes with the circle on the bottom, carried by Reebok or the Zumba store. Knee pain is the most common injury in Zumba classes, so getting good shoes is a good step for prevention.
3. Learn the right way to shake it! Yes, I said it! Any dance move that has you move your buttock out and back can be done in one of two ways. The first way is you can arch your back and use your back muscles, which can cause an increase in back pain. The second (and better) way is to focus on tucking your pelvis underneath your hips and squeezing your glutes and abdominals, and then releasing. If you focus on the “down” motion instead of the “up” motion, you will get a better abdominal and gluteal workout compared to if you just used your back muscles!
4. Let go of your insecurities! My favorite thing about Zumba class is that everyone is welcome and all types of bodies are celebrated and encouraged to show off their moves! I love that I see a large diversity of people enjoying exercising in a social atmosphere, whether they know anything about dance or not! The first step to a successful Zumba class is to let go of any fears you might have about looking silly. Zumba is all about empowerment and self-growth, and most people in class aren’t looking at you at all. The only rule of Zumba is to have fun, listen to your body, and keep moving, and I promise you will have a blast!
Stay tuned for my next post that will highlight more about how to stay well with exercise and movement!
Also, interested in taking a Zumba class in Portland? Check out PulsePDX!