By Anne Marie Amacher
BETTENDORF — After the death of her husband last year, Sharon Noel decided that she wanted to help others in a unique fashion. She chose to teach Zumba — specifically Zumba Gold.
Zumba fuses fitness, entertainment and culture into a dance-fitness art with music. Zumba Gold is a low-impact version that suits senior citizens and others who don’t want a high-impact fitness program.
Noel has been participating in Zumba for four years and began helping out with the fitness program at the Center for Active Seniors (CASI) in Davenport.
When she met with her parish nurse, Cathy Thennes of Our Lady of Lourdes in Bettendorf, Noel asked about the possibility of teaching Zumba at Lourdes. Thennes liked the idea and had been looking for a new program to offer at the parish.
“Our previous exercise class instructor had retired and the participants kept asking for a class to start again,” Thennes said. “We were so thrilled when Sharon offered to teach Zumba Gold. The class is a less intense version of the regular Zumba class and the participants can exercise according to their ability. It is not only fun but it (provides) a place where people can come, make new friends and support each other to become healthier physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
Noel received her certification to teach this summer and she and Thennes decided to start the program when the new school year began.
Three times a week Lourdes parishioners and school parents are invited to participate in the church’s gathering space for Zumba class. Funerals pre-empt classes, but that doesn’t happen often.
“You’re working out and you don’t feel like you’re working out,” Noel said of the class.
While Zumba involves physical exercise, Noel said it is also good for the mind. “We do mirror images of our steps and I use hand or voice signals for the steps.”
Noel has found the participants like to learn the steps first — without music. After learning the steps, she uses her voice or hand to signal a change in step. Then she adds the song.
A fun twist Noel offers to those willing to try is a belly scarf around the waist. The scarves have small coins or other metal or plastic décor. Noel said they are colorful and to make a jingle noise, “You have to work a little harder to hear them.”
She notes that Zumba is good for the memory and it offers socialization. During her experience at CASI, participants formed a bond and many of them went out to lunch together. When her husband passed away, the group was there to support her.