Zumba fans say it really works

By now, you've probably heard the word "Zumba." The dance-based fitness program is popular in fitness clubs, churches and other local venues.

People of all ages attend one, two, sometimes even six or more classes each week. And the testimonials are inspiring: Zumba enthusiasts say they've lost weight, gained energy and made friends at the classes.

Robin Kachik of Sherrills Ford is one of those enthusiasts. Three years ago, she was trying to lose weight after being pregnant with her fourth child.

"I tried running," she said. "I tried P90X. Then I started going to Zumba classes. It was like 'boom!' " Before long, she had reached her goal weight.

Her friends were impressed. What was she doing?

When Kachik told them about Zumba, they were interested, but not enough to make the 30-minute drive to the closest classes. So Kachik decided to become certified as an instructor and teach classes in Sherrills Ford and Denver.

"I had three people in my first class, and two of them were my girls," Kachik said. "I kept with it, though, because I knew it would eventually catch on."

It certainly has. The fellowship hall at Rehobeth United Methodist Church in Terrell, where Kachik teaches on Mondays and Fridays, is nearly too small for her popular class. Men and women of all ages gather for an hour of Latin-inspired dance fitness. And while the dance moves may seem daunting to a beginner, it takes only a song or two to catch on and really start enjoying yourself.

"The music is really uplifting, and the choreography is easy to learn," Kachik said. "However, the fellowship may be the best part. I always look forward to seeing my 'Zumba family.' "

Family, as it turns out, is a powerful motivator. Kachik, who lost her mother to cancer earlier this year, recently received training to teach Zumba Gold, a version of the fitness program geared toward older adults.

"My mom didn't have much of a fitness program, but I wonder sometimes if (had she had been physically fit) she would have been better equipped to handle the two years of chemotherapy that took such a toll on her body," she said.

Kachik's children often accompany her to classes. Her older girls have learned some of the routines and aren't afraid to jump right in with the grownups.

"I hope I'm teaching my kids that exercise can be fun," Kachik said. "Women and men of all ages can do Zumba. They can lower their blood pressure, reduce body fat, maintain flexibility, strengthen their joints, even find some relief from depression. Everyone should try it."