Forget sweating to the oldies. Huntsville residents are working up a sweat Zumba style.

The city’s recreation services department offers free Zumba classes at Iron Works Health Club on Mondays and Wednesdays starting at 5 p.m. and Thursdays starting at 4 and at Nautilus Health Center every Tuesday and Thursday beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Kim Barnes, recreation coordinator for the city and certified Zumba instructor, said the city-sponsored program has been a hit with residents looking for a fun way to get fit, due to it’s accessibility to all fitness levels.

Barnes said the Zumba class has attracted participants from many age groups and backgrounds.  “We have students from age 16 to 70. It has a cult following.  People enjoy it because it is fun and you don’t feel like you’re working out.”

The Huntsville Zumba program, which started with approximately 20 participants per class two times a week, has now reached an attendance of 60 to 70 students in each of the six classes a week.

Barnes said the idea for starting a Zumba class in Huntsville started when a former city employee saw a TV ad for the fast- paced cardio workout which is based on salsa and merengue dance moves and set to a variety of Latin and international music.

Eight months after the program started, the city has three certified instructors and classes have been added to accommodate the growing number of participants.  According to Natalie Reid, one of the instructors, the class is even fun for the teachers. “I never get tired of it. It is a lot of fun.”

However, Barnes says safety is now a concern due to the lack of space in the rooms currently available for use at the local gyms.

“The class requires a lot of room to move and the number of people makes it difficult to fully do all the moves without bumping into each other or tripping.”

The city is now seeking alternative space options for the program with dance appropriate floors, a sound system, and air conditioning.  Barnes also says a central location is important as well, since they want to make the class accessible to many residents.

Louis Miller of Huntsville said she attends because the class burns a lot of calories for the time spent.  In fact, she enjoyed the class so much that she decided to bring her granddaughter, Mellissa Miller.

Mellissa said she was reluctant to dance in front of people at first but quickly got over her anxiety and began to really enjoy it.  

Cheryl Howard lives in Riverside, but says she stays in town after work just to attend the 6:30 Zumba class.

When asked how they heard about the class, the universal response was word of mouth.  Monica Jameson, who was attending Tuesday’s class for the first time, said she heard about the class from friends at work and came to see what all the fuss was about.

Zumba classes are held at Iron Works Health Club on Mondays and Wednesdays starting at 5 p.m. and Thursdays starting at 4 and at Nautilus Health Center every Tuesday and Thursday beginning at 6:30 p.m.  Free childcare is provided.

For more information or to donate a meeting space, contact Kim Barnes at (936) 294-5725.