Staying physically active is an important part of maintaining good health regardless of age, and many wellness experts assert that the need to stay active is even more important as age increases.

Physical activity helps maintain muscle mass, which in turn benefits balance, flexibility and mobility. It can also help to improve memory, mood, cardio and cognitive function while decreasing the risk of injury and illness.

Sometimes, though, starting and maintaining a physical fitness routine can be a daunting task, particularly as people age. Zumba instructor Marisela Dellinger and her assistant Anne Breyer were special guests at the monthly Women's Club of St. Thomas Church meeting to help ease the anxiety of physical activity with a Chair Zumba demonstration on March 4.

Dellinger has been a Zumba instructor at the Brigantine Community Center for about six years, said Mariette Pennestri, a Community Education and Recreation employee and the Women's Club of St. Thomas social coordinator. She said Dellinger teaches many types of Zumba — which is a Latin-inspired dance workout that can take many forms — including Zumba Gold and Chair Zumba, which are specifically modified for those less suited to a rigorous routine.

“When some people hear Zumba they may think it's something that's more than they can handle,” Pennestri said. “We have some ladies in our Chair Zumba class who are pushing 90. They love it and come every time.”

“A lot of people may not know what Chair Zumba is, and some might even be a little scared to try it, so this is an opportunity to show them that it's not that hard,” said Dellinger, who will soon start a new fitness program at the Community Center called Pound (see PoundFit.com), which uses lightly weighted drumsticks for exercising. “It improves endurance, range of motion, helps with posture, memory and many other things. But most importantly, it's fun.”

“It's one of the best exercises you can do for brain activity because it keeps your mind going,” Breyer added. “During Zumba it's almost like meditation because your mind is clear of everything else except what you're doing, which is dancing. It's fun, it's social, there's no rules, you just follow along at your own pace.”

According to information at Zumba.com, Zumba was created by choreographer/fitness instructor Alberto “Beto” Perez in the mid-1990s, somewhat by accident.

Perez was on his way to teach an aerobics class and forgot the music he typically used for rep-counting in aerobics. He improvised using the salsa and merengue tapes he did have with him, which allowed for more improvising among the class attendees.

The blunder gave birth to what Perez later called Zumba, which is now practiced by millions worldwide.

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