Long before Susan Craver began teaching Zumba, the Framingham resident got her exercise as a letter carrier in Wayland where she met her husband, Bob.
She dabbled in dance -tap, jazz and ballet - while raising the couple’s four children, Jason, Jarrett, Sarah and Emily.
In 2008 she stepped into a new career teaching Zumba, the in-disguise workout for dancers who want to get some exercise while having a good time and meeting new friends.
After she began teaching Zumba to a small class of 10 at the MetroWest YMCA in Framingham, word spread. Others from ages 60 to 90 learned about the benefits of her calorie-crunching workouts and joined the fun at the Callahan Senior Center and the Natick Community Center. More tap-danced their way to better health in her classes at the Y in Framingham and the Sudbury Senior Center. She now touts a mailing list of about 150.
While she leads the aerobic fat-blasting fitness class of about 35, mostly women, at the Callahan Senior Center, they move to the rhythm of Latin American music inspired by countries such as Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. They swing their hips and move to hip-hop, meringue, cha cha and salsa music, said Craver.
As part of their Zumba workout, they also engage other muscle groups with more traditional exercises such as lunges and squats.
And all that can shed pounds. A 150-pound person can burn approximately 540 calories performing one hour of Zumba, more than a person would burn jogging for an hour, according to HealthStatus.
“It’s cool seeing so many people more active and it’s very social,” said Craver. “Most participants dance in the same area in the room and socialize and meet new and old friends in their group.”
Some Zumba benefits include improving blood circulation, balance, meeting new friends, building strong bones and muscles, burning calories and relieving stress, according to SilverSneakers.com.
“When you are dancing to a song for three to four minutes, it also builds stamina,” said the instructor, who wears a fit bit and records 6,000 steps in each session. “And while they are thinking about the steps and what they have to do next, it improves memory and concentration.”
Craven suggests dancers keep their bodies moving at all times by shaking body parts, moving laterally and engaging their arms to get the best results.
During the past nine years, Craver has met some pretty interesting people in her classes. Among them, a young man in his 40s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s who went to her Zumba class
with his sister.
“He loved the music and would come and twirl me around,” she said.
Another man about 58 knew his father at 81 was in better physical condition than he, so the son decided he wanted to get healthier and joined the Zumba party.
The instructor enjoys seeing several groups of friends showing up weekly for her classes, many of whom follow her to other senior centers.
In the fall Craver, who plans to teach about two to three classes per day said, “It’s great. I don’t have to work out.”
When not teaching Zumba or tap, Craver works at the desk at the Y and with her recent interest in birding, one day each month she helps out at Mass Audubon’s Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick. She enjoys spending time with her four grandchildren, traveling with her husband and walking their yellow Lab, Lydia.
While her various classes and jobs may sound like a lot of shuffling, she says the hours don’t add up to 40.
However with all that exercise she admits, most nights she sleeps like a baby.
(If you know of someone we could cover for this Good to Know column, contact me at email@example.com.)