The childhood obesity epidemic is a problem that looms so threateningly that a large variety of methods must be sought to deal with it. That’s why Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative came up with 70 recommendations. A great many of them, of course, mention physical activity. One of the physical activities most likely to attract participation is dance.
It would be great to see more after-school programs, community-center programs, and neighborhood groups encouraging dance, especially for kids. A program called Zumba is currently wildly popular all over the globe. Journalist Kate Newton calls it “exercise in disguise,” and describes how it started:
A kind of aerobics-Latin dance fusion, the now well-trodden explanation of Zumba’s origin is that Colombian fitness instructor Beto Perez forgot to bring his usual aerobics tapes to class one day, so he improvised a routine to the Latin dance tapes he had in his backpack.
Zumba is said to be a lot of fun, and within the abilities of almost any child, even kids who think of themselves, or are thought of, as uncoordinated. It’s mainly effective as a cardiovascular workout, rather than a direct obesity cure, though it does improve flexibility and suppleness of motion. In the fitness realm, one thing leads to another, and anything that motivates kids to get up and move is a force for the good.
Another thing about Zumba is that it seems to be adaptable across economic strata. According to a multitude of polished websites constructed by Zumba instructors in various cities, it’s rather pricey, and too product-oriented for many parents’ taste. However, the session Newton observed took place at an inner-city church in New Zealand, and the photo on our page is from a very informal class in a Missouri community.
On TV, the Oxygen channel offers a show called “Dance Your A** Off,” in which the chubby-tubby contestants, with the help of professional trainers, compete to lose the most weight. Their routines are also graded, of course.
This show is a source of “thinspiration” to many viewers, although its appropriateness is a source of worry to some parents. Kari Croop has put together a really comprehensive overview of the program, from the parental point of view. She assesses its value in terms of the messages and role models presented by “Dance Your A** Off,” and the kinds of issues it can stimulate discussion of, with our kids.
So, how about it? Let’s hear about your thoughts and experience with either of these programs.