Women Party Their Way Into Fitness

Women Party Their Way Into Fitness

Zumba, the original fitness party, is helping Lubbock women take control of their health in a fun way.

Written by Beth Phillips

In addition to improving markers of Type 2 diabetes and disease risk, researchers hope the study will give participants a new attitude toward fitness.

In addition to improving markers of Type 2 diabetes and disease risk, researchers hope the study will give participants a new attitude toward fitness.

Any Zumba enthusiast will tell you that when Latin music sensation Pitbull tells you to “Pause,” you listen.

That’s because the high-energy dance craze, made up of cumbia, reggaeton, merengue and salsa rhythms, doesn’t offer many chances to catch your breath, and you don’t want to get caught out of step.

Researchers at TTUHSC and Texas Tech are using Zumba to help a diverse group of 45 Lubbock women ages 18 to 65 find their fitness groove regardless of their fitness or dance ability.

Get Moving

“Exercise is extremely important for our health and well-being,” said Jamie Cooper, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Texas Tech Department of Nutritional Sciences. “Any time people begin exercising they reduce their risk of numerous chronic diseases. Unfortunately, less than half of the people in our country meet physical activity recommendations.”

Cooper; Du Feng, Ph.D., Human Development & Family Studies; Mallory Boylan, Nutrition Sciences; Kent Griffin, Health, Exercise & Sports Sciences; and Sri Krishnan, postdoctoral fellow, are working with principal investigator Christina Esperat, Ph.D., R.N., professor and associate dean for clinical services and community engagement in the School of Nursing, on a project called, Zumba Latin Dance Class Intervention in a Type 2 Diabetes Population: A Pilot Study.

The study was funded last year with a $20,000 research scholar grant from UMC Health System and the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health.

“The purpose of the study is to determine the effectiveness of a 16-week Zumba Latin dance exercise intervention in improving markers of Type 2 diabetes, physical fitness and chronic disease risk in a female diabetic population,” Esperat said. “The project will also look at the intensity of the exercise program, as well as the level of enjoyment and motivation among a female adult diabetic population.”

It’s all about increasing confidence, promoting socialization, and eliminating barriers like cost, time constraints, lack of motivation and boredom to improve attitudes toward exercise, Cooper said.

Worldwide Craze

The research team chose Zumba rather than traditional forms of exercise, like basic cardio and weight lifting, because of its popularity, Cooper said. In addition, Zumba is relatively low impact and can be modified for most fitness levels.

“I think for some individuals they don’t view it as exercise but more of just a fun dance class that they get to go to,” Cooper said. “I think that’s why Zumba is so popular in our country right now.”

Since its inception in 2001, Zumba has become the world’s largest dance-fitness program with more than 14 million people taking weekly classes in more than 140,000 locations across more than 150 countries, according to the company’s website.

Classes for the pilot study began earlier this month, and are taught by a certified Zumba instructor three evenings a week at the Harwell Elementary School gym.

Cooper said the research team has already received several positive emails from participants who are energized about taking control of their health in a fun way.

“The women really seem to be enjoying themselves and at the same time they’re getting a good workout,” Cooper said. “They’ve very interested in their health and wanting to make improvements in it.”

Anyone’s Workout

Recruiting for the project began in November, and at first was just open to women diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The study was eventually expanded to also include overweight and obese women at risk for the disease.

All baseline testing for the study was conducted at the Combest Center. Staff and personnel took participants’ body weight, body fat, blood lipids, HBA1C, an indicator of diabetes, and also measured four different components of physical fitness: flexibility, muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular endurance and body composition.

At the end of the study, staff and personnel at the Combest Center will take the same measurements again, Cooper said.

“We’re hoping to see improvements in all aspects of physical fitness,” Cooper said. “We’re hoping to see weight loss in some participants, but we’re not anticipating dramatic weight loss, because we’re not doing any kind of nutritional intervention.”

The results of the pilot study will then be published, presented at national conferences, and submitted for a larger federal grant to fund a larger study for men, women and children with a nutritional component added to the dance class intervention, Cooper said.

“We want to make something that’s sustainable,” Cooper said. “While this study only lasts for four months, we’re hoping to make a lifestyle change for these individuals.”


Story produced by the Office of Communications and Marketing, (806) 743-2143.

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About Zumba

Created by fitness instructor Alberto "Beto" Perez, Zumba is the only Latin-inspired dance-fitness program that blends international music, created by Grammy Award-winning producers, and steps to form a "fitness-party" that many say is downright addictive.

Today, the Zumba program is taught in gyms and studios all over the world to millions of Zumba enthusiasts, offering many different forms of the popular workout including Zumba Toning and Aqua Zumba.

Get moving and find an instructor in your area.

School of Nursing
School of Nursing

The School of Nursing began in 1979 with the development of the first nationally accredited Continuing Nursing Education Program in Texas.

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