Health: Baby Boomers and the Zumba Craze


Cary, NC — There’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on at the Cary YMCAs: It’s the Zumba classes. With reportedly nine classes at the Cary Y and eleven at the Kraft facility, Zumba, with its high intensity activity, is clearly a crowd pleaser. Can any age take part?

Baby Boomers and the Zumba Craze

It’s no surprise that most participants are twenty or thirty-somethings with some middle-aged moms enjoying the classes, too. But what about the older ladies and men? Is vigorous exercise too much for baby boomer bones?

As a boomer myself, I had to find out. I signed up for classes to experience the sensations of Zumba. After I started,  there was an article in a local newspaper about baby boomers and their exercise habits– featuring my Zumba class. The writer assumed that “old bones” and joints would have a lot to contend with– mishaps expected and other therapies to be recommended. Suffice to say, what I read was a bit of a downer.

Better Health Through Spirituality

However, many health experts question these assumptions about age and other body-based theories, turning instead towards a mindset. Dr. Dean Ornish implies love is the answer to better health, even reversing age symptoms. Dr. Lissa Rankin predicts that spirituality, not biomedical models, will have a stronger role in our health practices. Many other respected practitioners share this view.

It’s not a new idea. Pioneer health writer Mary Baker Eddy, based on her extensive healing practice, says to look away from the body for better health. Men and women of “riper years and larger lessons ought to ripen into health…,”she believes, reflecting her understanding of life as an outcome of the divine.

Optimistic View Of Older Exercisers

Likewise, our local YMCA directors are hopeful when it comes to older exercisers. According to Amanda Dismukes, Fitness Director of the Cary YMCA and Melissa Szikai, from the Kraft Y, no age-specific classes are designated for Zumba, which is “so much fun you don’t even know you’re working out.”

And Zumba is fun. We shimmy and salsa to upbeat Latin, African or Rap rhythms. Instructors add Indian and Middle Eastern moves to work every bone, joint and muscle and we emerge from class renewed and refreshed.

Mind Over Matter

Sometime ago, I had to choose which theory of age and exercise I would accept for my health: the aging, deteriorating body-based option; or the Spirit-based “ripening into health”.

After several Zumba classes, going upstairs suddenly seemed difficult, even painful. I decided to question, though, whether this boomer body was the only indicator of my health.

I reasoned that innocent fun involved joy, exuberance and freedom. There’s no pain in those spiritual concepts! So, I turned my thoughts away from a complaining body in gratitude for all the fun that had come into my life. I embraced that these concepts were mine to express because they were spiritual, and therefore always available. I continued to walk briskly, climb stairs, and express gratitude– and soon noticed that the aches of joints, bones and muscles had disappeared. They never returned.

Its now a year later and I continue to be physically active. For me, Zumba and other kinds of exercise are fun, freeing and healthful. These days, however, I’m watching my thoughts more than my body.


Story by Cynthia Barnett. Photo from San Diego City College.


8 replies
  1. B.A. Farrell
    B.A. Farrell says:

    How true that “motive” makes the activity. It is refreshing to
    see how many people are appreciating their activities as indications
    of their deeper selves instead of attempts to re-make themselves.

    Zumba sounds like so much fun. Watch out Cary Y – you may have two
    or three more candidates in the wings!

  2. Eric Dzierson
    Eric Dzierson says:

    Thank you Cynthia. Conditioning was once done to impress (others or myself). Now it is done to express the spiritual qualities you mentioned. Since joy, freedom, and strength are qualities they are not dependant on days/week or repetitions. Now I will go for a walk in the woods sans the mp3 and headphones. My music is the
    sound of children laughing, the birds, ducks, and geese.

  3. Robbie
    Robbie says:

    There’s some truth to the axiom “you’re as young as you feel.” I have friends in their 40s and 50s that accept they are getting old, and they look, move, and feel old. Then I have friends in their 80s and 90s that welcome life and open themselves to a brand new day everyday. They see the beauty and freshness of life continuing to unfold. They have an entirely different approach to movement and energizing their thought, and spritualizing their approach to living. One friend at 93 practices yoga daily and is learning to play the piano. One in his mid 80s still rides his bike. My father had a lifetime relation with the YMCA and went to the gym four days a week until his 92 year. I celebrated my 60th last year with a 5400 mile bike ride across the US and met older (and younger) bicyclists headed the other way. I had to deal with some physical problems along the way, but daily experiencing the beauty of nature opened the beauty of harmony, the presence of the divine, in my experience and those discords quickly departed. Living is so much more enriching than the image frequently placed before us by mass media and big pharma. Turn off the tube and smartphones and go for a walk in the woods to be witness to the glory of life…and be grateful.

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