BY LEAH MORROW
It is all about moving your feet and having fun.
This is what Heather Heath, Zumba instructor for Music and Fitness with Heather, believes is the real meaning behind the dance fitness program.
Zumba began by accident. During the 1990s Alberto “Beto” Perez, a dancer and choreographer in Colombia, was asked to teach an aerobics class in place of a friend. When he showed up to the class he realized that he had forgotten his music. He then went out to his car and rummaged through his many Latin CDs. Upon re-entering the classroom, he taught the entire class at the spur of the moment using Latin-based music. It soon became extremely popular there.
In 2001, Perez moved to the United States, where he teamed up with cofounder Alberto Perlman and a childhood friend, Alberto Aghion. The three men produced a demo reel, which was seen by the company Fitness Quest. They licensed the concept and created a direct marketing campaign and a line of home videos.
The name “Zumba” has no actual meaning; rather, it was picked arbitrarily as the brand name.
According to Heath, this is where dance met aerobics.
“Zumba is celebrating its 10th anniversary in January,” she said.
Heath has long considered herself a fitness enthusiast. She would run during the warmer months of the year and during the winter months moved her exercises to a gym. After a while the treadmill began to bore her; that’s when Heath made the transition into Zumba. She said one minute on a treadmill felt like an hour in Zumba class.
“Zumba offers different intervals of low and high, not just a straight on run,” Heath said. “It is more fun getting healthy. Zumba works all of the muscles: upper, lower, the heart and the brain.”
Heath now teaches seven classes a week in various locations throughout Waterloo Region, such as the YMCA.
She said anybody can participate in a class.
“I had one man attend a Zumba class at LA Fitness without an arm,” she said. “He was told that I was the person to go to by his friends. I told him as long as you are moving, don’t worry about what you can’t do. After the class he thanked me and told me how much fun he had.”
This was just one moment during Heath’s career as an instructor that she realized how much of a difference she was making in people’s lives in their search to become healthy and active.
For some people the public approach to Zumba can be what is stopping them from attending classes.
“I used to attend classes at a YMCA and the one I went to had glass windows,” said Tara McDonald, a third-year science and nursing student at Conestoga College. “So people who were coming to check in could look through the glass at us.” She said when there are people looking in, because Zumba is a dance aerobics and kind of silly, she feels she holds back a bit.
McDonald said she does see the benefits of Zumba.
Heath said for people who share similar feelings or for people who simply don’t have time to attend a class, there are ways you can do it at home.
“There are instructional DVDs and YouTube videos,” she said.
She still encourages attending an actual class to get the full experience. Heath said she offers smaller classes with a more targeted, personal approach.
She considers Zumba like a mini vacation, where for an hour a day you can escape real life.
For more information on Heath’s Zumba classes visit http://hheath.zumba.com/.