A healthy beat

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By Put on your zumba shoes to stay in shape the fun way, says Tania Bhattacharya
  • Published 9.09.12

Are you bored of standard gymming or that quick early morning run to lose weight or stay fit? Maybe aerobics are too monotonous for your taste, and combat training, too hectic. And you’re just adding to your woes by following a diet regimen that’s barely helping because you hate it.

Now there’s an extremely entertaining alternative to keeping fit — zumba. Calcutta is truly cranking up the zumba beat with as many as six instructors conducting regular workout programmes across the city. It’s appropriate for all age groups and sexes, and followed by celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Natalie Portman, Emma Watson and Kirstie Alley as part of their workout routines.

For those who came in late, zumba is a dance fitness workout programme that largely combines moves from Latin American dance forms such as merengue, salsa, cumbia, reggaeton, soca, cha cha and samba. The workout, however, isn’t limited to these forms — there’s often a Bollywood number, along with hip hop and belly dancing thrown in too.

A typical workout lasts for 45 minutes to an hour and involves intense cardiovascular activity that effectively burns anything between 500 to 1,000 calories in a single session. Squats and lunges are spread throughout each workout, and classes are usually held twice or thrice a week.

So what is the zumba experience like? Kesang Bhutia, a 38-year-old banking professional, swears by it. “I never adjusted to the monotony of gymming or aerobics. Zumba is dance with exercise and I’ve been able to sustain it far more consistently. I’ve definitely lost weight and inches, and I feel lighter and much fitter,” she says. Bhutia attends Satyaki Saha’s zumba sessions at Flash Fitness on Camac Street.

Exclusive zumba parties at nightclubs are Aditya Upadhyay’s way of making the fitness routine popular; Pic BRIJESH MENON

According to Amit Shaw, who conducts zumba classes with his wife, Dorothy, and has at least 400 students at any given time, “zumba is fitness in disguise. It’s all about coming to class and having a blast. If it’s strenuous, then it’s just not cool.” They teach at their dance schools, Tolly Club, Saturday Club, CCFC, Gold’s Gym in Alipore and at Dew Drops Academy in Bhowanipore and specialise in Zumba Toning — body sculpting routines — and Zumbatomic, which is for kids. Shaw is also Calcutta’s ZCOM (or zumba.com) representative.

Saha, who has over 100 students across the city, emphasises that the formatting of a zumba class is very different from that of an aerobics session. “Zumba includes a lot of resistance training, and during these sessions the music doesn’t stop. In fact, the music itself is characterised by intermittent highs and lows, so the body relaxes and works out to this rhythm. So no matter how intense each song is, you never feel like you’re losing your breath,” she says. Saha believes that mixing different dance styles — like salsa and reggaeton — to a single song makes for an extremely effective workout. She takes classes at Fusion Fitness in New Alipore, Calorie Burn Center and Hindustan Club and specialises in Zumba Toning and Zumbatomic.

Zumba, says Amit Shaw (left), is as much about having fun as shaping up ; Pic ANINDYA SHANKAR RAY

There’s a strict system of certifying zumba instructors or ZIN, and various levels of specialisation that they bring to their workout sessions. For instance, Zumba Toning combines targeted body sculpting and high-energy cardio — all done with the help lightweight toning sticks that help tone the abs, thighs, arms and glutes.

On the other hand, Zumbatomic involves specially choreographed workout routines for children between four and 12 years — they’re high on energy and help boost metabolism, self-confidence and coordination between different body parts.

The essence of zumba is to be happy, so all instructors seriously emphasise that it’s crucial to enjoy these classes. And 44-year-old entrepreneur, Jiten Chawla agrees. He says, “The best part about zumba is that it keeps you happy and when you enjoy yourself, the workout yields better results. I feel great about myself since I joined zumba.”

Satyaki Saha has over a 100 students across the city;Pic ANINDYA SHANKAR RAY

For Tapas Das and Nikita Sangai, zumba is one big dance fitness party. “During the sessions, all Latin dance movements are more exaggerated and are used to address various body areas. So cumbia is exercise for the legs, while samba works the hips,” says Sangai. On the other hand, Das specialises in Aqua Zumba; he says, “This is zumba in water and is very good for people with joint trouble. It’s slower and there’s more resistance in water, thus more beneficial.” The couple has about 150 students across their studios, Twist Turns.

On the other hand, Aditya Upadhya has been really spreading the zumba word with his parties at Maaya at Swissôtel. He started off with parties at Shisha Reincarnated last year, which had great footfall. “I want people to understand that zumba is truly a party, and what better place than a nightclub to promote the idea,” he says. A unique feature of his zumba sessions, which have a lot of jumps and kicks, are 15-minute hardcore floor exercises right after the workout — including push-ups, ab and back exercises and Pilates. Upadhya takes sessions at Solace and specialises in Aqua Zumba.