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It seems like out of nowhere, Zumba has happened. What was once another contended in a long line of fitness fads has now become a favourite wellness workout. 14 million people take classes around the world on a weekly basis, so what’s the appeal? According to Donna Murphy, Ireland’s Zumba Fitness co-ordinator, ‘It’s all based around exercise in disguise. You don’t feel like you’re working out. But you’re burning, minimum, 600 to 1,000 calories per class, plus toning.’
The routines are based on traditional Latin dance styles like Salsa and Merengue or urban styles like Reggaeton, but specialised cardio, core and flexibility movements are deeply integrated into every workout. Donna explains, ‘Even if you’re doing something basic, like a salsa forward and back step, you incorporate a forward lunge at the back. Or you could do a Samba and do a leg lift, so you’ll be working your core muscles and your thigh muscles.’
Zumba’s success can partially be put down to how adaptable it is; it works well in a group setting but can still be changed to suit anyone’s fitness level – and everyone seems to enjoy it. Donna even teaches Zumba to help members of rugby clubs improve their wellbeing and performance. ‘There’s a lot more cardio in a Zumba class than running on a treadmill. I teach rugby lads for pace – they do a bit of cardio pace on the pitch, but nothing like this,’ she says.
Donna adds, ‘I’ve done training with people who have been fitness professionals for 10 or 15 years. They had disregarded the Zumba Fitness programme and I encouraged a few of them to come and try it – they were on the ground after three songs.’ Perhaps the reason Zumba has really taken off is that it’s a fun way to learn how to dance. Donna notes, ‘When people come to the class, one of the first questions they ask is, “how do you learn to shake like that?” But the whole idea is to loosen your body and all your muscles. We have hips; we are naturally born to swing them, to dance with them and to enjoy them.’