Longterm readers will know that I do a yearly gym challenge, where I aim to go to the gym 150 times a year, and it always turns out to be a lot, lot harder than I expected. Since this is the fourth year of the gym challenge, I've racked up over 500 gym visits and unsurprisingly I'm ready for a change.
One class I've wanted to try for a while is Zumba, a dance-based aerobic workout set to Latin rhythms. I was even thinking about changing gyms to try it out. Turns out I don't even have to leave the house.
A new Zumba Fitness video game has just been released, and I was sent a copy of the Wii version to try out. It comes with a special belt to tuck your Wii controller into, so the game can track your movements - the idea is to move in rhythm with the onscreen instructor.
This ad gives you a taste of the moves and shows you how it works with the belt. Ignore the cheesy voiceover:
- Zumba Fitness gives a good medium-intensity workout
You will get out of puff and sweaty with this, it's much more challenging than Wii Fit. It's misleading to call it a game though, it's more of an interactive fitness DVD.
- Workouts are broken down into manageable chunks
A 20-minute workout is presented in 3-4 minute sections, so it always feels like you're making progress
- Easy access
You don't need childcare or special equipment to do this, just clear a space in front of the telly and you're away.
- It's cheap
You can pick up this game for as little as £22. Compare this to £30+ for one session with a personal trainer, or £40-£100+ per month for gym membership
- You can do it alone (or not)
No need to feel self conscious when it's only you in the exercise class. There is the option to play with up to three friends, but I guess that depends on how much you want an audience for your booty-shaking madness
- Plenty of variety
30 different routines on offer, from beginner to advanced level. The more you work out, the more you unlock new routines. Music includes salsa, merengue, flamenco and reggae. Alas no death metal, but then that's what I go to BodyCombat for.
- Clear instructions
The sections to teach the steps are clear (and pretty essential if you're to have a hope of following the routines). A good way to train up to going to a live Zumba class.
- It's fun
Working out with Zumba Fitness put a smile on my face, and I don't even like World Music and am generally grumpy as hell.
- No instructor to adjust your position if you're doing it wrong
The instructors glow red, changing to green if you're getting the position right, but this is no substitute for a proper fitness instructor who can see what you're doing and correct you where necessary.
- It's cheap
One advantage of paying for a gym is that it gives you an incentive to go and get your money's worth.
- Exercising at home isn't always as private as you might like
My son decided to join in. My daughter preferred to shriek "Mum, you look ridiculous", which I can't say did a lot for my sense of wellbeing.
- Less motivation than in an exercise class
Once you've joined a gym class, you're there for the hour with an instructor to motivate you and push you further than you might go alone. You could turn this off after 10 minutes and go and have a cup of tea and nobody would know.
Whilst I don't think I'll be swapping my BodyCombat casses for this, it did feel like it gave a decent workout. I played it in half term when the kids were off school and it was harder for me to get out to the gym. And If you're shy of exercising in public then I think you'd love this.
Some of the footwork is complex, but there are also plenty of moves like the grapevine or touch-step that have been around in aerobics classes for donkeys years. So whilst it's challenging to do, it's not hard to pick up the basics.
You will need room to move to do this workout, and I found out (too late) that it's not compatible with a child doing a 500-peice jigsaw on the floor at the same time. Oops. But for most people in an average sized living room, you'll be fine.
Zumba Fitness is out now on all major games formats - we played it on the Wii. RRP £34.99, currently on offer at Amazon for a bargain £22.47