Weather Forecast


Zumba workout craze has whole lot of shaking goin' on

Students groove to the beat while participating in a Zumba exercise class at Gasper's School of Dance in downtown Fargo. The dance-centric workout originated in Colombia before migrating north to the U.S. Photos by David Samson / The Forum

Fargo-Moorhead fitness outlets are feeling a serious shake down. Zumba, the latest international workout craze, has taken hold of F-M, and sessions of the exercise are giving participants a workout that mixes sweat with smiles.

"Where else can you have fun and get in shape at the same time?" asked Janet Dew before Thursday night's class at Gasper's School of Dance in Fargo.

"Ditch the workout. Join the party," says Jill Lawrence, repeating a popular Zumba mantra.

Lawrence, who is a certified instructor, teaches seven Zumba classes a week at locations such as Gasper's, Total Balance, Xtreme Measures and Courts Plus, says the dance-aerobic workout is the most popular fitness class around.

"It's hugely popular," says Mandy Zastre, health and wellness coordinator for the area YMCA outlets. So popular that she's looking for more certified instructors to add more classes to the Y's schedules.

The new groove

Zumba was started by a Colombian dance instructor in the mid-1990s. By the early 2000s, it had moved north to the United States and continued to spread.

The workout incorporates dance moves and musical styles like cumbia, salsa, merengue, mambo, flamenco, reggaeton, belly dancing, bhangra and hip-hop.

While it may be the newest craze, some say it could outlast other workout trends.

"It's as big as Jazzercize was in the 1980s, if not bigger," says Matt Gasper, a dance teacher at the family-owned Gasper's School of Dance and who was recently certified as a Zumba instructor.

He recalls hearing one woman say she liked the class because her husband would never take her out dancing and this was her time to get her groove on.

Zastre says Zumba is far more popular than hip-hop hustle, which the Y recently dropped.

Classes have also been developed to shape muscles (Zumba Tone), for kids (Zumbatomic), for elderly participants (Zumba Gold) and for a pool workout (Aqua Zumba).

For those who would want to work out in their home, Zumba DVDs are available, and the exercise is also available via the Nintendo Wii.

The Zumba zone

Those involved with the class say the appeal of the aerobic workout is not hard to figure out: Entertainment plus exercise equals satisfaction.

Another factor is a lack of pressure, both on the body and psyche.

"I think people like it because it's low-impact on joints," says Zastre.

Which doesn't mean Zumba is a low-aerobic workout. Lawrence says people who really keep the energy up can burn 600 calories in an hourlong workout.

There's also a certain freedom in the movements, instructors say. With participants ranging from 18 to 70 and of all body types, not everyone moves the same.

"We embrace our awkwardness," Lawrence says.

During Thursday's Gasper's class, some squatted deeper, kicked higher or lunged farther than others, but everyone was encouraged to work within their own comfort level.

"There's not a lot of thought put into it, just following someone else's lead," Lawrence says.

"Some other dance classes can be very choreographed, but in Zumba, there is no right or wrong," says Dew, who has been taking classes for 10 months.

"I feel like I'm having fun without working out," says Angie Thorson, who likes the class because she's unmotivated to work out on her own.

"I think it helps build confidence and self-esteem," she says, adding that she's lost 20 pounds since starting classes in July.

Even someone who has spent their life in classical dance, like Gasper matriarch Kathy Gasper, sees the value in the new moves.

"I think the more people move and hear good music, the happier the world is going to be," she says.