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Dancing is not just something to do at a nightclub or to watch in competitions on TV -- it's also a viable workout that can really melt away the calories. If you're an obese person who's looking to try Zumba for fitness, you're choosing a workout that may help you get healthier and burn calories, all while learning some of the most popular Latin dance steps around. Since Zumba can be such an intense workout, the first step should be to get your doctor's OK to start this fitness routine.
What to Bring
Zumba is a challenging workout, so expect to sweat. While some experienced Zumba participants will be decked out in fancy dance gear, don't let that intimidate you. You should wear clothing that will allow you free range of movement, such as a pair of stretch pants or shorts and a T-shirt or lightweight workout top. Aim for lightweight, breathable materials that will keep you cool as you start to heat up. Dance shoes are best, but any type of cross-training shoes will be fine. If your instructor allows it, you can also go barefoot if that's more comfortable for you. Also bring along a water bottle and a sweat towel -- you'll need both readily available.
Choosing a Class
Zumba is designed to allow beginners and advanced dancers to attend the same classes, though your gym or fitness center may offer classes geared toward beginners. Look for "Zumba Gold" classes, which are designed for older adults, beginners and those with physical challenges. If your gym doesn't offer those courses, talk to your Zumba instructor before your first regular class and let her know about any physical challenges you have. She may make suggestions about where to stand in the room or adjustments you should make based on your size. Another option for beginners of all sizes, shapes and ages: rent or buy a Zumba DVD to help you go through the basic moves step-by-step before attending class.
Find Your Rhythm
Zumba is such an intense workout because of the constant flurry of activity -- which can be really overwhelming for those just starting out. Try to keep up with the flow of activity, but don't worry if you don't get all the steps right. Pay attention to the beat of the music and move your body in time. If you're totally lost, focus on the footwork first. If you're not ready to try jumps, turns or lunges just yet, step your feet in time with the music during those moves. As you get more confident, start adding in the arm movements, and then the jumps, twists and more complicated moves. Proper form is more important than executing fancy dance moves, reminds MayoClinic.com.
Go at Your Own Pace
To stick with any type of exercise, you have to find it fun. If you're pushing yourself too hard and you become overly tired, dizzy or nauseated, there's a chance you'll choose to skip class the next time -- and you might never come back at all. Don't worry about what other people in the class are doing. If you get tired, take a break and sip some water. Most Zumba classes are 45 minutes to an hour long, which can be a long time for beginner exercisers. If that's too long for you at first, aim to do half the class. At the midway point, step out of the room and do your own cool-down routine. Walk or jog in place for five to 10 minutes, and then do some basic stretches.