Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Fitness challenge: Zumba toning class

Each week intrepid reporter Rachel Grunwell will try out a new form of exercise to bring you the lowdown.

Zumba combines a range of Latin American dance styles - with some Macarena moves thrown in for good measure. Photo / Supplied
Zumba combines a range of Latin American dance styles - with some Macarena moves thrown in for good measure. Photo / Supplied

What is it? A high energy dance/cardio class where participants hold "toning sticks" to add weight and help with toning. Zumba is built on the concept of having a "party" while you get into shape to the sound of high-energy music.

The dance craze is heavily hyped on the telly. It has been around since the mid-90s, thanks to Alberto "Beto" Perez. According to the Zumba website, he was a fitness instructor in Colombia, when he one day went to teach an aerobics class and found he had forgotten his traditional aerobics music. He used his own tapes he had in his bag, which featured salsa-type songs. Spontaneously he discovered the dance-fitness craze and now more than 12 million people do it in over 125 countries.

What's needed? Trackies and a T-shirt - or get into it and go all fluoro and flamboyant.

The experience: Instructor Kellen Pinheiro is a walking advertisement for Zumba. This hot mama (she has two kids), with possibly the best booty in town, could inspire anyone to work out with her.

In fact, all she has to do is wear her Zumba gear to the supermarket and people stop her and ask where they can join her for a class.

Mike, a steel fabricator, who is in the class I trial, did exactly that. He doesn't give a hoot about being the only bloke among a sea of women and he tells me he ignores his kids who give him a good ribbing about loving Zumba. "I come because I enjoy it," he says.

A manager from the supermarket comes, too, says Pinheiro, who is from Brazil and has a background in Latin-dancing. But she insists anyone can do Zumba. Her mum comes along and a 64-year-old loves her class, too. She just adapts her classes to suit her clientele on the night.

"Most of the members of my group are in their 30s, and are mums, so I can do lots of fun sexy and shaking stuff, lots of girly moves. I just get Mike to do stronger arm exercises!" she says.

"Anyone can do this. People are here to have a ball and have fuuuuuun! Not to do dancing proper."

She says, with a laugh, that her girls keep coming back to her classes "so they can be in a Brazilian bikini by summer!"

The Zumba class I'm at is in a primary school hall near Mt Eden and it's a mixed class tonight, young to old, fit to fuller-figured. All women, except for Mike. All having a great time. The Latin to European music is pumping and everyone's hip-wiggling and doing various versions of the salsa, tango, cumbia, latin, belly dancing, flamenco, hip-hop, even Bollywood, and a few Macarena moves are thrown in there which cracks me up and takes me back to high school.

The sticks I hold in each hand are very light and I'm not sure they tone my arms much. But that's probably because I'm used to lifting my 9kg baby about all day. Pinheiro says it takes a few classes to get used to the moves and waving the sticks at the same time, which gives you the the maximum benefit.

I'm no pro at the booty-shaking, but I smile my pants off. I reckon after a few sessions I could suss the choreography a bit better and get even more out of the 60-minute workout.

I take note that if a girlfriend ever asks while shopping "Does my bum look big in this?" I'll tell her to go see Pinheiro.

How much? $10 per class, or $80 for a 10-class concession card.

Worth it? If you like to boogie and want a great booty, then Zumba could be for you.

Try it: Kellen Pinheiro's classes are at Three Kings Primary School, 944 Mt Eden Rd, Mondays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. A Zumba toning class is on Wednesdays at 7.30pm. Or find a Zumba class near you through zumba.com - they are almost everywhere.

Rating: 8/10

- Herald on Sunday

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