Zumba Fitness classes see spike at the UI


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Alex Judisch moved her hips effortlessly, shuffling left and right with the beat of the drums pumping through the speakers. The Monday evening class was the first of four the UI sophomore attends weekly at the University of Iowa Campus Recreation & Wellness Center.


"I'm addicted," she said. "It's kind of a problem."

Judisch joins a global following of Zumba Fitness, a program that mixes Latin dancing with body-toning exercises. UI Recreational Service officials said Zumba's popularity has skyrocketed.

"I would say within the last year, we've had a 100 percent increase," said Matt Stancel, an associate director of fitness programs at the rec center. "Every class is full."

The workout's high-energy style has attracted many students and local residents, who usually fill the 30- to 40-person classes, Stancel said.

"Personally, I like Zumba because the music is so much fun; it's a way to dance more," UI freshman Katie Skinner said. "It's kind of like going out dancing and going crazy."

The workout program was launched internationally in 2007 and garnered more than 12 million weekly participants in more than 125 countries by 2011.

In 2011, the rec center offered three classes per week taught by one instructor. Those numbers have jumped this year to 14 classes per week with seven instructors.

"Fitness trends train all the time," Stancel said. "There's always something new coming out, and Zumba is in that trend. It's a 360-degree turn from your traditional step classes that were popular in the '80s and '90s."

Stancel said he expects those numbers to keep rising.

"Our intentions are to meet the needs and goals of our members," he said. "They've expressed a need to have more Zumba classes in the past; we try to meet all the goals of our members. If they want more Zumba, we're going to get more Zumba in there."

Zumba instructor Erin Donohue said the program's music and dance moves make it more enjoyable than traditional workout routines.

"You're really getting a total body workout, and you're doing it to loud, fun music," she said. "You're not so much thinking about the workout. There's cardio, and you're toning, you're working your core muscles, your legs, cardio. It's something for everybody."

The routine's exciting nature was the main draw for Judisch.

"It's so much fun, and it's a great way to get a workout without feeling like you're getting a workout," she said. "I like to dance and have fun, and the instructors always get really into it."

While the program traditionally attracts women, Donohue added she has noticed an increase in the number of male participants.

"I typically have a couple guys come every week," she said. "I'm sure the girls will bring their boyfriends. There are male instructors in the larger metro areas."

UI communications Associate Professor Joy Hayes, who specializes in Latin American studies, said that Zumba can have cultural benefits for its participants.

"I think just generally, the culture exposure is great," she said. "Any exposure to different cultural ways of doing things is an educational thing."

And the routine's social nature, Skinner said, gives it another advantage over many workout circuits.

"Its better than sitting on a bike; you get to go with your friends — it's like a social event. You sweat just as much as you do on the elliptical for a half hour. You don't really think you're working out."

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