Benefit offers Zumba for the heart

Exercise is critical, survivor says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
An Auburn event will give residents a chance to Zumba their hearts out, while also raising money for the vital organ. Zumba Fitness is hosting a Party Hearty Zumbathon from 9-11 a.m. Saturday at Rock Creek Elementary School. Proceeds from the event’s ticket sales will go toward the American Heart Association’s Go Red Por Tu Corazón Program. Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance fitness program offered in many Auburn gyms. Auburn resident Karen Leese, a licensed Zumba instructor, is organizing and leading the event. Leese is a 2009 heart attack survivor and said she wanted to host the Zumbathon because the charity hits so close to home. “I want to bring the awareness to women that the symptoms are not like the guys (have),” Leese said. “Both my arms just ached like I had done too many pushups. I had just been really tired for about the past week, and it was really unlike me. On that day I just didn’t feel right.” Leese said she was shocked because she had been a fitness instructor since 1990, and she lived a healthy life. “I was like, ‘No, I can’t be having a heart attack,’” she said. Leese said heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, one in three women will get heart disease, and about one woman dies every minute from it. Hispanic women are at even greater risk. Zumba and healthy hearts are a perfect combination, Leese said. “I think Zumba, they want to give back to the community,” she said. “And anything that pertains to health and wellness, that is what (Zumba Fitness) sponsors. I think health, and fitness and awareness is what they are all about. As far as for the health of your heart, movement is key. I think as far as Zumba and all that … it’s fun. It’s just cardio.” Rhea Serran, communications director for the American Heart Association Sacramento Office, said not only do these types of events raise money for the association but they also raise awareness as well. Serran said funds raised through benefits stay in the local community and go toward things like research, reaching out to populations at risk through various programs and educating residents. Leese said so far 25 people have signed up for the event, and she is hoping to at least double that number. Zumba is for all ages, and Leese said she currently teaches a 68-year-old man and some 13-year-olds in her Auburn classes. Auburn resident Michelle McKnight is a student of Leese’s and said she plans to attend the Zumbathon. “I have an illness of my own, and I figure if I can support this that maybe eventually there would be something for the illness I have as well,” McKnight said. “I think it’s a very good cause.” McKnight said she is bringing her 16-year-old son to the fundraiser. Auburn resident and fellow Zumba student Denise Hermann said she is excited to attend Saturday’s event. “I’m in the medical field for one, and it’s a blessing to be able to help anyone who needs the help to be well,” Hermann said. Hermann said Zumba can be modified for all ages, people can move at their own pace and it’s easy just to laugh and have fun. “I have pushed a lot of my coworkers to join me,” she said. “I said, ‘You know it’s a lot of fun.’ It’s very energetic, a lot of Latin (feel), a little of this and a little of that in it. You don’t have to dance. I find it very fun and energizing myself.” Auburn resident Cheryl Bowman, who is also going to the Zumbathon, said the exercise has helped with a pinched nerve in her leg. Lake of the Pines resident Jo Andrews said, for her, the benefit is also personal. “I had a heart attack years ago, and it was a silent one,” Andrews said. “I was lucky it only damaged the upper part of my heart. Even being an exercise person, I still had a heart attack. So, I really think (exercise) is critical. Being healthy and having a heart attack is a whole different scenario.” Serran said the association supports residents finding the exercise that is right for them, including Zumba. “This might be the one thing to get you started to a healthier lifestyle,” she said. “It is for anyone.” Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------------------------------ Party Hearty Zumbathon What: A two-hour Zumba event to raise money for the American Heart Association’s Go Red Por Tu Corazón Program. When: Registration – 8:30 a.m., Zumbathon – 9-11 a.m. Saturday Where: Rock Creek Elementary School, 3050 Bell Road, Auburn Tickets: $10 in advance, $15 at the door For information or tickets: Call Karen Leese at (530) 403-6553