A new fitness craze is so popular, nearly 140 undergraduates at UMW participate weekly and is spreading across campuses in Virginia and the nation.
Zumba is relatively new to the University of Mary Washington and there has been a noticeably large increase in the amount of attendees compared to other recreational exercise classes.
When comparing Zumba to other group fitness classes such as Yoga, Cardio kickboxing, and Mat Pilates for the fall 2010 semester, Zumba was ranked number one in total participants at 970, and with an average of 141 student attendees per week which includes 2 sessions. Yoga came in second with 667 attendees for the semester with an average of 62 students per week. Cardio kickboxing came in third with a total of 613 attendees and with an average of 51 students per week.
According to UMW Campus Recreation, the “2,428 total guests for fall is a 26 percent increase over fall 2010, and Zumba makes up a large portion of the total students who participated in group fitness.
Jessica Randall, a Junior biology major at UMW participates in Zumba regularly and said that “It’s a really good workout and you don’t even realize it.”
When asked why she initially tried Zumba, she responded, “I wanted to try something different and it looked like a lot of fun.”
Randall found out that Zumba turned out to be “really, really fun and much more fun” than she originally thought. She also sees herself continuing Zumba “probably until the end of college or even after.”
Zumba involves dancing to music from various international cultures along with aerobic exercises. Some of the dance choreography comes from hip-hop, samba, salsa, merengue, mambo and martial arts. Zumba originated in Columbia during the 1990s by Alberto Perez, a dancer and choreographer.
The Zumba group exercise class was started in the fall and classes are held twice a week.
Dani Hoffmann, the Zumba Instructor at UMW, began teaching Zumba because of the increase in popularity and also the need for instructors. She became a certified instructor in Aug. 2011 and has been teaching group exercise classes at UMW since 2004. Hoffmann teaches Zumba five times a week: twice at UMW and three times at another fitness center.
She also teaches Cardio Kickboxing, pilates, abs, high intensity interval training and step at UMW. When asked why she thought Zumba was popular, she responded, “Everyone loves to dance.”
She explained that she believes there is a misconception that other high intensity fitness programs such as kickboxing are harder on the joints. She also believes that female students at UMW find it fun to come into the dance studio and let loose.
Hoffmann said, “Zumba is all about having fun” and that Zumba is something everyone can participate in. It is something that gets people to come to the gym to do other workouts besides the typical routines that include lifting weights and working out on the cardio machines.
With over 60 different routines, Hoffmann’s Zumba class is never repetitive or something to just go through the motions. Students who attend the classes are fully engaged both physically and mentally. Sometimes, students know the routines better that the instructor.
Hoffmann said she tries to learn a new routine once a week and it gets difficult to remember all of the dance moves but it’s great when her students know what moves come next.
Each routine has a specific set of songs on the playlist. Hoffmann receives music once a month from the Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN) and can choose any of the songs she wants and incorporate them into her routines.
The Zumba Instructor Network is an education and marketing support program that is designed to help Zumba instructors become successful.
Bob Liebau, the associate director of Campus Recreation and the head coordinator of Group exercise on the UMW campus, said that Zumba was started because the students who often participate in group exercise classes highly requested the class be brought the university.
At the end of every school year a survey is given to all students that participate in these group exercise classes once these are filled out Liebau analyzes the responses and does his best to make sure the recreation programs are satisfying the needs of the students who use these facilities.
When asked about why Zumba has become so popular Liebau said, “Simply, it’s fun and when you have fun your brain sends you chemicals that make you feel better.”
The use of popular fast paced music and rhythm is a main factor for why Zumba has had such an amazing following here at the UMW.
With attendance varying from 30 to 70 participants, the amount of spacing available varies throughout the year. Hoffmann noticed that during the colder months, the amount of students per classes stays relatively similar.
As the weather starts warming up, more people attend the Thursday class session. Hoffmann believes that is due to “spring fever,” when people want to spend more time outside.
Most participants are female. Hoffmann stated that at one point there were two males who regularly attended classes for three weeks. She overheard one of them exclaim that “This is one of the best workouts I’ve ever had.”
Another trend is that participation dwindles as the semester progresses most likely due to the increase in workload. But after all of the projects are completed, there is a jump in participation right before final examinations most likely due to students seeking to relieve some stress and have fun.
Zumba is also growing in popularity in other Virginia universities. Additional four-year universities that provide the Zumba fitness class are, the University of Virginia, James Madison University, George Mason University, Christopher Newport University, Longwood University, and Virginia Tech.
Stephanie Belcher, the assistant director of fitness instruction at UVA, said that UVA has “been offering Zumba here for between four and five years. Zumba is definitely one of our biggest classes at UVA.”
Belcher also said that due to the change in the method of tracking participation, finding exact numbers were hard to obtain. Belcher estimated that the “average Zumba class is around 35-40 people, and our studios are close to full at 40-50.”
Zumba has one of the largest attendance rates from students yet it is not offered as much due to a smaller number of instructors. Similarly to UVA, Zumba has become a popular class at Longwood University, located in Farmville, Virginia.
Matt McGregor, the associate dean of wellness of Longwood University, noted that Zumba has become popular on his campus too.
McGregor said Longwood “started our first Zumba classes in the fall 2010 semester.”
McGregor also said “Zumba is one of our more popular classes.”
Similarly to UVA, Longwood has had trouble with the frequency of Zumba classes offered due to the availability of instructors.
If you are interested in participating in a Zumba class at UMW, classes are Thursdays from 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the dance studios at Goolrick Hall. It is recommended that you wear any type of athletic attire and athletic footwear.
Raymond Willess, Sarah Tagg, Ashley Tensley, Kathryn Tarr contributed to this story.