According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report, India has one of the largest populations suffering from one form of mental illness or the other. Miami-based Beto Perez, creator of the 'Zumba Program', Zumba Fitness, LLC. wants to introduce Indians to a form of fitness, which works both for the mind and the body -- the happy dance i.e Zumba.
The programme helps individuals relieve stress and cope with anxiety, even helping them to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
In fact, studies have shown that individuals who exercised reported feeling down 43% fewer days compared to people who did not exercise. Additionally, low-intensity exercise like Zumba spurs the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause cells to grow and make new connections. The result: People who are depressed showed significant signs of elevated mood after participating in the exercise. IANSlife caught up with Perez who was recently in Pune for the first time to conduct a Masterclass. Here's what he had to say:
Zumba is a great programme because it burns fat, keeps you fit, and most important is fun. Is it essential to have fun while working out?
Perez: There are two benefits to having fun. The first is that you are more likely to stick with a workout if you enjoy it. The second is that the fun aspect delivers a benefit to mental health. We have literally thousands of Zumba fans reporting improved mental health through regular Zumba practice - you really can't put a price on this.
How important is it to be a licensed Zumba trainer with a certification?
Perez: A Zumba instructor who is not licensed is not a Zumba instructor! Only properly licensed instructors have completed the official training and have access to the materials to deliver a genuine Zumba class. You can find all our licensed instructors on our website, zumba.com so please check first to ensure you don't risk training with an imposter!
In India, Zumba has appealed to a lot of women like to stay at home mums who find it easier than working out in the gym or weight training, how do you feel about this?
Perez: One of the greatest achievements of the 'Zumba Program' has been the transformation of women's lives. It's either through improving their physical and mental well-being at a class or embarking on a career as an instructor and achieving a new level of independence. Zumba has changed literally hundreds of thousands of lives just in India.
Zumba is also a great stress buster tell us why?
Perez: For an hour in a Zumba class you can lose yourself in the music, surrounded by like-minded others, and really be yourself. Nobody judges you in a Zumba class and as such it acts as a wonderfully therapeutic environment.
For those who had a rather sedentary lifestyle with little exercise, do you think Zumba is the right programme to begin their journey into health and fitness?
Perez: Zumba is the ideal first step into fitness. It is a judgement-free environment where all you need to do is move a little and you are on your way. It doesn't matter how well you perform the steps - nobody cares. All we care about is that you move your body with a smile on your face. Everyone is welcome.
Is a proper diet essential when one takes up Zumba?
Perez: Diet is always important. By taking care of what you eat alongside a regular exercise routine you will see faster results. It is not essential to change your diet when you start Zumba but the act of exercising makes you think more about your health and you become more disposed to making beneficial dietary changes.
Zumba has received Inc. Magazine's coveted "Company of the Year" title including the 2012 December cover in which you were prominently featured, is that validation that you're on the right path?
Perez: It is always great to receive accolades but what we really care about is the millions of people taking classes. As long as they keep coming we know we are doing something right!
What is your fitness routine and diet?
Perez: My routine is pretty strict, but this is because fitness is my livelihood. I teach Zumba classes 3 or 4 times a week for my cardio-fitness but I also work out several times to further build and sculpt my body. I eat a protein heavy diet, avoid carbs and sugary treats and don't drink alcohol. I feel the same today as I did 20 years ago! But, as I mentioned, this is my profession - my advice to anyone is to exercise 3 times a week and to start to cut sugar and processed food from their diet. Just eat fresh fruit and vegetables and you are making a positive start.