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Zumba – Social Empowerment and Group Fitness for Women

Zumba : health benefit

In recent years, dance-fitness has emerged as the world’s largest group exercise program (Zumba & Inc, 2014) with millions of participants and a growing number of certified instructors. It is widely advertised as a different and more fun form of fitness that is free from the negative characteristics that participants associate with other group fitness. To know more: Avvatar Isorich

Social Empowerment

Moreover, it is promoted as a distinct fitness option with its own set of positive characteristics that can make it especially appealing to women. But whereas prior research has addressed how fitness instructors can make the exercise more empowering for women (Markula, 2004b; MacNevin, 2003), little is known about how women’s social empowerment might be enhanced by instructor strategies in a group fitness like Zumba.

This article addresses this gap by examining the role that Zumba instructor strategies play in shaping the positive experience of participation in Zumba and whether these practices challenge the dominant ideals or the social structure that motivates group exercise.

Social Empowerment

To address the first question, we analyzed how Zumba instructors use a range of instructional strategies that deviate significantly from those of traditional group fitness instructors. We compared the ways these strategies produced a more positive experience of fitness, reduced constraints to participation and improved the experience of female group fitness participants who have been exposed to critique from other participants or believe that they cannot complete the exercises.

Group Fitness for Women

The first strategy that Zumba instructors employ is a focus on the enjoyment of the activity. This involves a high degree of self-expression and creativity.

This practice, which has been described as “freestyle,” encourages participant autonomy by allowing them to personalize the moves as they see fit or feel creatively inclined. However, this freedom is largely limited to the pre-choreographed content of the class. This, as Parviainen (2017) noted, limits individual instructors’ creativity and can make participants confused about the purpose of the activity.

A second strategy that Zumba instructors employ is to watch other participants closely and encourage them to be appreciative of each other’s performance. This strategy promotes an appreciative gaze, which has been found to reduce the likelihood of participants being critical of one another’s performance (Markula, 2004b; MacNevin, 2004).

In addition, Zumba instructors encourage a sense of mutual accountability through their encouragement of “sharing the work” and by promoting a risk-free environment where mistakes are all but impossible to commit. This approach has been shown to enhance women’s willingness to participate in group fitness because it provides a low level of risk for them and other participants.

The third strategy that Zumba instructors employ is a more holistic approach to teaching the movement. This includes a greater emphasis on the mental aspects of the exercise, which may be more engaging for women than the physical ones.

The fourth strategy that Zumba instructors employ is to provide a safe space for participants to try out new and different movements. This strategy reflects a feminist engagement with Bourdieu’s concepts of body and sociality, which consider the body and its activities as a means to produce change (Markula, 2004b). When instructors do not model criticism but encourage participants to observe each other’s performance and offer feedback that is generally positive, participants view this as a kinder, more encouraging process. This elicits more self-respect, and makes participating in fitness seem more satisfying for participants.

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