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Zumba dance moves convert easily to pool exercise
Water aerobics class burns calories and easy on joints
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Aqua Zumba instructor Zandrea Stephens leads a class Thursday at Frances Meadows Aquatic Center. About 14 people attended the class, which started about a year ago. Stephens said Zumba has ‘changed my life.’ She has lost 45 pounds and dropped in pant size, going from 24 to 16. Her progress inspired her to start teaching Zumba classes. - photo by NAT GURLEY

‘Aqua Zumba’

When: 5:30-6:15 p.m. Thursday

Where: Frances Meadows Aquatic Center, 1545 Community Way NE, Gainesville

How much: $10 drop-in fee

Contact: 770-533-5850 or

“I would never do this move on land,” said Shannon Mooney, who was exercising next to me as we thrust our hips forward and back to the beat of the music blaring in the warm pool room Thursday night at Frances Meadows Aquatic Center.

I smiled in agreement and tried to keep pace with instructor Zandrea Stephens who was moving quickly on the pool deck and encouraging myself and 14 other women in the center’s “Aqua Zumba” class.

I joined the class as part of The Times’ series about experiencing exercise classes first-hand. In fact, it had been almost a year since I took my first class, which was the “Get Wet and Sweat” morning water aerobics class. Therefore, it made since to return to the pool and try a different course.

In the Thursday night class, I felt almost like a Radio City Music Hall rockette. Low and high kicks to the front and back were part of the routine. And since I was in a pool, I could actually get my legs higher than if I was in a regular land-based class.

The cushioning effect of the water is one of the reasons Aqua Zumba is a popular class for older adults, Stephens explained before the start of the class.

“It’s less strain on the joints and muscles,” she said. “They have more flexibility in the water and more range of motion. People who have trouble walking in the building can get in the water and move around.”

At least a couple of class members — who were all women — admitted to having arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and knee replacements. Exercising in the water allows them to work out without the jarring effects of regular exercise class.

“Land Zumba is hard, and it is harder for older people,” class member Paulette Cain said, admitting she likes the fast pace of the class. “You can burn a lot of calories.”

Linda Miller, a 70-year-old who is a member of other water aerobics classes, agreed.

“I’m a water-exercise person,” she said, admitting to having arthritis and a knee replacement. “This (class) is more of the wiggling and moving and all of that.”

Sylvia Newsom, 53, of Habersham County, who also had knee-replacement surgery, likes the class camaraderie. In fact, she joined with five co-workers.

“I like that it’s upbeat and the unity,” she said. “And it’s a fun and a workout.”

After I stopped trying to complete the dance steps in the water with the same skill as the instructor, I started to enjoy the class. Mooney, who was beside me in the pool, also shared some words of wisdom.

“If you can’t do all of the moves, just keep moving,” she said, explaining the movements keep my heart rate up.

That seemed to work. Plus, I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I was doing the steps precisely, because no one could see if I messed up or not since we were in the water.

Mooney agreed that was one reason she liked the class. Another reason was “no one is worried about what everybody looks like,” she said.

The Gainesville woman, who has dealt with a lifetime of obesity, said she thought she would be self-conscious about joining the class in October. She hadn’t been swimming in more than 20 years. However, the 41-year-old grandmother saw people similar to her in the class.

“And I liked the class so much that I didn’t care anymore,” she said.

Mooney also noticed her increased flexibility, more endurance and better sleeping habits.

“And my legs feel like jelly,” she said after getting out of the pool. “But it’s a good exercise.”

I concur. My legs felt heavy as soon as I got out of the pool. But once at home I felt refreshed and slept hard that night.

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