STEPPING UP IN AURORA: Health benefits of dance go beyond the waistline

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AURORA | People who want to steer clear of the dance floor tend to have little coming up with an excuse.

Jessy Mancha, owner of Remixx Fitness dance studio at 9365 Montview Blvd., has heard plenty from people unsure of their ability. The most common is that they were blessed with two left feet, to which Mancha has a ready retort to get people to take the plunge.

“We’ll take those two left feet and turn them into a left and right,” he said with a laugh.

And it isn’t just that taking a dance class can make you look like less of a goof at the next wedding you attend. For people looking to dance for the fitness benefits, Mancha says it’s a perfect option for people who tire of the monotony of a treadmill or elliptical.

“You don’t really realize that you are losing weight,” he said.

Unlike the at-times monotonous routine of gym equipment, the upbeat and boisterous atmosphere in Zumba studios such as Remixx means dancers can lose themselves in the dance for that hour or so, Mancha said.

“You forget about the hour that you are dancing,” he said. “You just come alive when you are dancing”

Mancha, who has been teaching Zumba since 2010, has been involved in dance for much longer, having started doing Mexican folk dancing as a child. Whether it’s hip hop, country, ballet or Zumba, he is adamant that dancing is one of the best workouts you can find. 

For Mancha, dance and Zumba in particular have been effective in the weight-loss department. When he first started Zumba more than five years ago, Mancha said he tipped the scales at 295 pounds. These days, he’s down to 210.

And he isn’t alone. According to Zumba.com, more than 15 million people around the world are enrolled in a Zumba class at more than 200,000 locations in 180 countries.

And it isn’t just that taking a dance class can make you look like less of a goof at the next wedding you attend. For people looking to dance for the fitness benefits, Mancha says it’s a perfect option for people who tire of the monotony of a treadmill or elliptical.

Beyond the obvious physical benefits of working up a sweat and getting the heart rate up, dancing has some added mental benefits, said Candice Baumgardner, group exercise manager at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center’s fitness center at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

Having to remember dance steps and dancing to a beat aids the memory and is especially good for people with dementia, she said.

“It can help your brain to stay healthier,” she said.

Baumgardner, who has a background in dance, said whether it’s Zumba or other dance classes such as the Pound class she teaches at the wellness center, dancing can also improve students’ balance and coordination, all while providing the cardiovascular workout they need.

And, Baumgardner said, unlike riding a stationary bike or some other exercise, dancing literally keeps students on their toes and they don;t know exactly what to expect next. That in and of itself can make a workout more rewarding and make time seem to pass quicker.

“They are thinking about something other than how hard they are breathing,” she said.

Still, if you know you aren’t much of a dancer, enrolling in a dance fitness class like Zumba can be intimidating.

Mancha hears those concerns often, but he insists Zumba is actually the ideal place for someone who might not be the smoothest dancer around. The classes of more than 30 people have some dancers who are obviously advanced, he said, but others still trying to develop one left and one right.

“You will see someone that is kind of similar to you,” he said. “There is every walk of life in the world in here.”