How to prevent Zumba-related injuries
Do you Zumba? If you do, you are one of an estimated 14 million participants in 150 countries that enjoy this Latin-inspired dance fitness program.
Dr. Jill Inouye's mother is one of them, and she kept coming home with aches and pains related to her exercise class. Dr. Inouye decided to look into it, in one of the first medical studies to look at injuries associated with Zumba classes in Hawaii.
"Of the 21 injuries, the most frequently injured sites were knees (42%), ankles (14%), and shoulders (14%). Participants with Zumba-related injuries did not differ significantly in age, months of Zumba, or hours/class compared to those who did not experience injuries," says the report, which is in the Hawai`i Journal of Medicine and Public Health. "However, participants who reported injuries took significantly more classes/week (3.8 versus 2.7 classes, P = .006) than non-injured participants."
Zumba is based on dance moves, and the study says its findings are similar to injuries seen among dancers (lower extremities, hip, and back), according to a systematic review in the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science.
Similarly, the study suggests you can reduce injuries from Zumba by applying techniques from dance, aerobics, and jazzercise. Those are:
Warm-ups and cool-downs that include stretching, strengthening, and balance exercises have been found to be important for sports in general and in aerobics. It suggests Zumba instructors be aware of the importance of appropriate warm-ups and cool-downs when designing their routines.
Both Zumba and aerobics include many side-to-side movements. Participants may not be aware of the recommendation to wear dance shoes that provide stability for side-to-side motion and allow twisting and turning. Running shoes are not recommended because they have treads, which can make the shoes stick to the floor. Dr. Inouye's study recommends instructors and health care providers make this clear before people sign-up for a class.
Healthcare providers should counsel their patients to stay hydrated to prevent nausea, dizziness, muscle fatigue, and cramping, by drinking eight to 12 ounces of water ten to 15 minutes before exercise; three to eight ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise, and 20 to 24 ounces of water or sports beverage after exercise for every one pound lost. A healthy carbohydrate and protein snack every two to three hours can keep a steady source of energy.
Cross training, such as running, lifting weights, swimming, or cycling, can also help decrease the risk of injury.
Smaller Zumba classes
Being in overcrowded classes may put students at higher risk for injuries because the instructor may not be able to see everyone and people may run into each other. One Zumba instructor recommended a class size of no more than 25 participants with 2 instructors so one instructor can teach while the other instructor walks around to see if anyone needs help.
Zumba instructors go through a standard training period but after they get certified, are allowed to create their own dance routines. There is likely to be significant variation among Zumba routines and instructor experience. Participants should ask their instructors how long they have been teaching Zumba and about their fitness backgrounds.
Picking an appropriate Zumba class
Healthcare providers should also advise individuals to pick Zumba classes targeted to their specific age groups or other health demographics as appropriate. There are classes for seniors, young children, and in the water.
If you're injured, treat it with Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE).
Still, the study lauds Zumba as a great way to get fit. "The goals of Zumba are for participants to improve strength, balance, coordination, and cardiovascular endurance... As a popular form of exercise, Zumba can be a very important part of improving health and reducing obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension," the study concluded. Doctors recommend 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week, and several Zumba classes can meet that requirement.
A 2010 UH John A. Burns School of Medicine graduate, Dr. Inouye conducted the research while training at the University of Hawaii Family Medicine Residency Program. Recently, she started her Sports Medicine practice at Queen's Medical Center.
She's brought attention to an important facet of a very trendy fitness workout, but to my surprise - she laughs that she's not coordinated enough to attempt Zumba!