Zumba program gaining in popularity
Participants take part in a recent Zumba class at West Highlands Elementary School. Zumba is a music-oriented physical fitness class for women. Chris Dowbiggin - Amherst Daily News
AMHERST - Most people like to keep in shape these days, and stick to their plan of eating healthy, regularly exercising and hitting the gym.
But the real challenge is keeping up the healthy habits when winter hits - and anyone who has lived in this region for more than a few years knows it hits hard.
However, for those intimidated by the pressures of working out in a big gym, there is a solution. It's fun, it's active and there is no intimidating atmosphere. It's called Zumba.
Zumba is a music-oriented physical fitness class for women held four nights a week at the West Highlands Elementary School.
Zumba involves aerobics to music to get a workout. It is quickly becoming very popular within the community.
Angela Muise runs the program and leads the class through their workouts. She said the popularity of the program usually spreads by word of mouth.
"It's great, we're getting friends out here every week, and they're bringing their friends, and they're bringing their moms and families, we have a big class and it's still growing."
Every week, the class has their own "Biggest Loser" challenge, based on the popular reality T.V. show.
At the end of every week, the class has a weigh-in, where all the members keep track of the amount of weight they have lost individually, and as a group. A "Biggest Loser" is selected every week to win a free Zumba class.
At the end of eight weeks, the class selects a winner who has lost the highest percentage of weight is awarded a cash prize of up to $640.
Just two weeks ago, the class managed to lose a whopping 90 pounds as a group.
Muise said she was both astonished at the amount, and very proud of her group.
"It was amazing, I was shocked," she said.
"I couldn't believe what we had accomplished, but at the same time we've all been working very hard, so it should be no surprise that all our exercise has paid off this well."
Carole Blenkhorn is a member of Zumba, and was also very surprised at the feat.
"It's winter, it's cold and nobody wants to do anything but sit around and eat. So it's pretty impressive that a bunch of women that dance around and act crazy every week lost that much weight in a week," said Blenkhorn.
For many members, the best part about the Zumba program is how the amount of fun had each week overshadows the pressure to keep up with the other peers in the group in losing weight. Making it an easy, laid-back atmosphere, while still putting in the hard work every week.
Jennifer Elliot is a good friend of Muise's, and was responsible for recruiting people such as Blenkhorn. She said the program is nothing formal.
"It's very fun. It's not too serious. We laugh and giggle a lot at each other because we're bumping into each other. It's not that choreographed."
Elliot said her goal for the future is do develop a completely healthy lifestyle to go along with her weekly workouts.
"I find my body has shaped differently now, I've lost a lot of weight but now I'm toned up more. I love keeping up with this and look forward to classes every week."