Students shake into shape with Zumba in East Gym

Photo by Pipe Dream

The workout sensation, Zumba, offered as a group exercise class in the East Gym, gives students a chance to dance their way into shape.

Alyssa Wong, a certified Zumba instructor since last year and a sophomore majoring in human development, described Zumba as a full-body workout that can burn between 500 and 800 calories per hour.

“It is a dance fitness program that combines Latin dance steps, cardio and strengthening moves in order to get fit while having fun as well,” Wong said.

Zumba has been offered at FitSpace since fall 2010 , according to Janice Bennett, associate director for Campus Recreation.

However, the newly renovated East Gym facility has given new life to on-campus Zumba classes.

With six certified instructors and various multi-purpose rooms available, the East Gym can offer more classes to students, Bennett said.

Zumba is offered seven days a week — three times a day from Monday to Friday and twice a day on the weekends.

Alberto “Beto” Perez created Zumba by accident in the mid-‘90s, according to He was a fitness instructor teaching aerobics and forgot his music for class. Improvising, Perez used the music he happened to have with him, a mix of salsa and merengue, to teach the class.

Rachel Sayson, a campus Zumba instructor and a senior majoring in accounting, said her favorite part of Zumba is the incorporation of Latin dances, like salsa and the Cha Cha.

“There are so many things in Latin dance that works out the body like squats and cardio in the salsa that a lot of people don’t know,” Sayson said.

In 2001, Beto created a business with entrepreneurs Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion. Together, the three trademarked the term “Zumba Fitness,” according to the website. By 2010, Zumba offered apparel, CDs, video games and workout videos, and is now taught worldwide.

Wong said she thinks people enjoy Zumba because they can have fun while they work out.

“You don’t realize that you are burning so many calories so at the end of the day, not only did you get a good workout, but you also had fun while doing so,” she said.

Attendance is taken at all Group Fitness classes the East Gym offers. Patti Dowd, program coordinator for Group Fitness, said that the most popular class is spinning, but that Zumba is high on the list.

Dowd added that students can benefit from taking a variety of classes, as it takes the “boredom” out of a regular routine and helps people effectively cross-train.

Nicole Heney, a sophomore majoring in human development, said that when she does Zumba, she isn’t counting down the minutes until it’s over.

“While doing Zumba the time flies while listening to good fast-moving music, more than it would on a treadmill when you are watching the seconds go by and can’t wait for it to be over and you can even learn some new dance moves,” Heney said.

There is no prior experience needed in order to participate in Zumba classes.

“Many participants have never taken classes before,” Dowd said. “The instructors show beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, then you can choose which best fits you.”

Wong believes the flexibility of Zumba is one of its main allures.

“You definitely do not need to have rhythm to Zumba — that’s why it is so much fun,” she said. “Despite your dance background, nobody should be afraid of coming to a class.”

Heather Fennell, a sophomore majoring in human development, said she appreciates Zumba because it’s unique.

“You barely realize you’re getting an intense workout and also it’s a different experience every time based on the instructor, their routine and a variety of great music,” Fennell said.

Wong teaches Zumba three times a week on campus and once a week at the YMCA located Downtown.

“Zumba is a great alternative to working out,” Wong said. “If you don’t like to run on a treadmill or use the elliptical machine, come to an Zumba class and experience the fun. You are having fun and without realizing it, shedding the pounds and living a healthier lifestyle.”