Q. My doctor told me to exercise to help control my diabetes. So I went to a Zumba class. I loved it but my back has been hurting for two days since I took it. Is Zumba safe for diabetics?
A. Most types of exercise are safe for diabetics, including Zumba. But some Zumba moves can place incredible strain on your spine — and that’s true for everyone, diabetic or not.
Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance-fitness class that’s hit health clubs and church halls across the world by storm. Zumba is everywhere and people love it. (You can get a taste of Zumba by searching for it on YouTube.com.) I’m a certified Zumba instructor — and I love the workout, too.
But every Zumba class is different and some classes include moves that can be jarring to joints — especially to the spine. And this can make your back hurt. The reason that you may experience this in a Zumba class, but not in a typical aerobic-dance or cardio class, is because Zumba music is often infused with lots of rhythm and lots of drums. The result is that it’s easy to incorporate lots of syncopated movements, or “isolations” as they are known in the dance world, into the routines. But it’s not only Zumba; any dance-fitness routine can include these sorts of moves.
So what are these iffy moves? Think of a shimmy where you shake your shoulders and chest super fast. Or chest thrusts where you arch your upper back quickly, repeatedly and with a lot of force in time with a strong beat. Or hip circles where you shake your booty super fast.
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Performing these moves once or twice may not be stressful, but repeating them over and over can be. Zumba routines are designed to repeat certain segments over and over. So if an instructor decides to throw a fast shimmy or a forceful hip thrust into a routine, you can end up repeating that move one time too many. A shimmy can affect your neck and the vertebrae in your upper back, as can chest thrusts. Hip thrusts, wiggles or circles can affect your lower back.
There are other moves that can strain the knees and back, such as twists, deep knee and back bends and fitness-style moves like squats and lunges that are performed with poor form because the music and routine are moving along too quickly to control body alignment.
Does that mean that you need to cut the funky attitude from your moves? No!
Here are six tips for working your way into a booty-shaking, shoulder-shimmying Zumba, or any other dance workout, safely.
1. Warm up really well
Warming up prepares your body for more intense movement. Starting to move gets your body temperature up so that your muscles respond better. And moving your body triggers the release of extra synovial fluid in the joints. This helps them move more smoothly, especially once you start to contract your muscles with more speed or force.
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