By Martha Nodar

Zumba is a dance-based, low- to moderate-impact aerobic workout and the latest exercise craze sweeping through the U.S., including churches, community centers and athletic clubs in Buckhead, Brookhaven and Sandy Springs.
Many find the exercise program, which is rooted in Latin rhythms, to be a fun way to get in shape, especially now after holiday feasts and New Year’s resolutions.
“Zumba is a cardio program that takes dance moves from Latin and world dances and fuses them with fitness moves to create a unique workout,” said Jamie Lewis, who offers zumba classes at the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Buckhead.
Anna Henderson, a clinical exercise physiologist certified with the American College of Sports Medicine, said zumba classes are “popping up everywhere across the nation.
“The easy to follow moves creates a terrific and safe cardiovascular workout for most individuals,” she said. “Zumba works the long muscles of the legs and the core muscles of the abdomen and lower back.   One does not have to be a dancer, or in good shape, or even work out at the same intensity as everyone else in the class to enjoy it and derive benefits from it.”
Zumba integrates a kaleidoscope of salsa dance footsteps, borrowed from the Cuban cha-cha, Brazilian zamba, Venezuelan merenge, Colombia’s cumbia and Spanish flamenco.  A Hawaiian-inspired belly dancing is added to the mix.
Originally from Colombia, and now based in Miami, Beto Perez, choreographer and zumba’s founder, wanted to create an exercise routine that would literally motivate ordinary folks to shamelessly exhibit their moves on the dance floor.
There are variations of zumba based on intensity.   Zumba Gold is recommended for active senior citizens and inactive non seniors, while Zumba Basic is for most people.  For those of us who may be old enough to remember, some of zumba’s slower moves may seem reminiscent of Charo’s famous signature lower hip-shaking “cuchi-cuchi.”
“You can modify the steps to your own beat,” said Enhicis Viamonte, who offers zumba classes at the Ashford-Dunwoody YMCA in Brookhaven.  “People like it because they don’t feel they are working out.  Most of my students are Americans who have not been familiar with Latin music until recently.  For some of them who are in their 50s and 60s, the zumba class is the first group exercise they have ever taken, and they love it.”
Young-at-heart senior Rhoda Burd takes zumba lessons at an athletic club in Sandy Springs and agrees with Viamonte.
“I have more fun taking Zumba than another type of aerobic class, maybe because I have always enjoyed Latin music,” Burd said.  “You just have to listen to your own body and participate according to your own abilities.”
Robin Washington offers Zumba Basic at an athletic club in Buckhead and Zumba Gold to seniors at an independent living facility in Sandy Springs.
“My Zumba Gold class is very popular with seniors who are looking for a way to stay mobile,” Washington said.
Associated with many health benefits, it is no surprise zumba is making its mark into the fitness arena.  Henderson said finding an exercise routine that one enjoys improves the chances that one would be motivated to establish continuity.
“Maintaining consistency is important because it makes weight loss and weight management more achievable and habitual—both elements necessary for a healthy body and mind,” she added.