Dancing Towards Fitness
Catchy music and fast dance steps make Zumba an exercise routine of choice for many, its popularity transcending gender, age and nationality.
By Sujata Devadas, May 22 2016
Jumie (front row, centre) leads her Zumba students
Enter a class filling with Zumba students, you feel it right away. Fitness and fun combined, every student is intent - ready to Zumba and get it right. Water bottles and towels are kept next to the wall. Many have done it before. The huge spacious hall in Sheraton, Abu Dhabi is full as the instructor, petite 'Jumie' - as Sasinun Thuntanasatidpong from Thailand is called by friends and students - walks in and smiles at her students that she leads in Zumba for one hour. Students take their position. Fast-paced trendy dance music fills the room. They give their full attention to moving fast and getting it right, in time to the music mostly from the Latin music genre, rather than lag behind the others.
Zumba stormed the world as a dance-fitness craze - a cardiovascular exercise that many expatriate nationalities find attractive across the UAE. Emirati students are joined by expats from Lebanon, Jordan, Ukraine, Sudan, India, Bangladesh, Philippines, China, Brazil, Nepal, Egypt, Thailand, Srilanka, Columbia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Britain and America.
Zumba instructors come from far and wide. ‘Jed’ or Jedross Latabe, 30, is from Mindanao, Philippines, and works as a Zumba instructor and marketing executive at I Shape Middle East, Dubai. While Jumie is from Thailand, her friend Mai Badei, from Jordan, is a certified practising Zumba instructor at three centres in Abu Dhabi. Both women were trained as instructors at the Zumba Fitness Company in Dubai. Electronics and communications engineer Marwa Ismail, from Egypt, is the first among these four to receive the Zumba instructor certificate in 2014 from Zumba Fitness in Sharjah. She now resides and volunteers as a Zumba instructor in Abu Dhabi.
Mai begins her class
From 10 to 78 !
Children as young as 10, and adults as old as 78, try out Zumba. In her first Zumba class, Jumie’s youngest client was 15, and hailed from Sudan. The senior-most Zumba beginner in her class was 78 from Armenia. So right at the very beginning, Jumie knew she was on to something. “I am always happy because, one: I am very happy to feel strong and healthy. Two: I want the same thing for others.” says Jumie. A year later, that Sudanese teenager hates to miss a class and the 78-year-old lady is interested in joining Jumie's Aqua Zumba class once the summer heat abates.
Mai adds: “Zumba instruction is the best thing I have done so far. It is quite cool to teach both genders,” she says. “Yes, I lost lots of weight. Motivation comes from my ability to release anger through Zumba. I am in shape, very flexible and it has helped me build a strong personality.
Not About The Money
Marwa volunteers as a Zumba instructor and is part of the Zumba Instructors Network(ZIN) like Mai and Jumie. It is a network all over the world of new and experienced instructors. As a ZIN member, their license to teach Zumba does not expire. They receive new music and choreographed dance numbers monthly to keep their classes fresh. “It feels great to discover how you impact others’ lives positively as a Zumba instructor and help them find the same passion in a cardio-vascular exercise routine. It is my passion now... I find myself in it. ” says Marwa.
Marwa Ismail volunteers as Zumba
instructor at a healthcare facility in
Zumba classes are offered at various levels: standard Zumba, Zumba Gold for senior citizens, Zumba for kids and even Aqua-Zumba, she explains. “Because it is based on heady music and dance, its attractiveness and appeal is universal. It is not a large learning curve. First-timers simply jump right in and follow the instructor’s moves.” Every week, Marwa volunteers at a healthcare facility to help patients maintain their cardio-vascular fitness. “Zumba is a full body workout — it touches nearly every muscle and joint. Aside from its heart-health benefits, head and shoulder rolls loosen up neck muscles. It warms the torso and the footwork stretches and strengthens calves and ankles.”
Marwa volunteers her time to guide patients in Zumba at a healthcare centre in Abu Dhabi. On an average she has 15 patients at each session. “My Zumba instructor friends always encourage and motivate me to give them the best Zumba experience.”
Jed poses with some of his students
Why It Works
“It feels like Zumba chose me,” says Jed Latabe. “Back in 2012, a friend prompted me to try Zumba, while I was lifting weights in the gym.” Jed subsequently took a two-day Zumba training course in the Philippines and lost 45 kilos through Zumba. “It did marvels for my confidence.
""My whole perspective about people, life and health changed. Instructing others was a natural corollary. Fitness should be a prioritized daily habit.” Jed began classes in his hometown in the Philippines. Now he teaches Zumba in Dubai. His oldest student is 70. “Appreciation comes in many ways.” he adds. “Not just what they tell you, but you can observe it in their gestures, rapt smiles, their energy during classes and after it.”
“Regular attendance is also proof,” says Jumie from Abu Dhabi Sheraton. Her teen student Saria says: “There is a fun part to it, that you miss out on a treadmill. I find Zumba super. It is dancing. That is really the best therapy for de-stressing, losing weight and getting toned muscles and staying fit.”
Saria’s mother Shahira, is also a Zumba enthusiast. She trained for years on the treadmill, on the cross trainer and has done aerobics. But she finds Zumba far more effective. “To me, besides gaining a toned and fit body, it feels spiritual to let go of everything and focus attention on getting it right in tandem with the music and with others. Zumba feels closer to meditation that way. You feel energetic, more flexible and lighter with the added bonus of a stress-free relaxed mind.”
Katherine, from the United States, attended a Zumba class when a Thai friend suggested it. "I enjoy the challenge. Working out with other women is more rewarding. I am motivated because I receive positive energy from my instructor, Jumie. Attending Zumba classes makes me feel better about myself. I used to do jazzercise in the 80s, which is similar, but I am doing Zumba for the first time. I recommend Zumba to anyone who likes fun and challenge.”
Mai and Jumie, regularly update themselves by attending Zumba training sessions. “Stay fit,” is Mai’s advice. “That way you can parent your child with a smile on your face.”
Physiotherapists however advice that vigorous and high-impact fitness sessions will often be carried along by the energy of the whole class. Participants may not quite realize if it is too much for their bodies to take. So caution must be exercised. Appropriate health professionals should be consulted regarding one’s own health and well-being.
“Aqua Zumba is basically doing Zumba in the pool. You do all the same dance moves at the same tempo, but the water slows you down, providing resistance while it cushions movements. By the time you finish the Aqua Zumba workout, you’re sweating and breathing hard, but still feeling great. As a low-impact workout, it is easy on the joints without increasing the risk of injury. An hour flies by!” says Jed grinning. It has ardent supporters. Water in the swimming pool acts like a cushion while simultaneously providing resistance to muscular exertion - no aches, no pain. It still remains an attractive proposition to Jumie’s 78 year-old student.
Jumie and her Aqua Zumba students
Every Zumba student is impressive, say all four instructors, because you can witness how they focus on keeping up and remembering the routine for each song over the period of one hour.
“There is no downside to Zumba, in my view,” says Jed. “I feel bad for Zumba instructors who do not get the opportunity to do this. It is a nice challenge to impart fitness in such a fun way”.