Physical fitness isn’t just for the young or athletic. Thanks to trainers like Elizabeth Moakler, physical fitness can foster a sense of community and transcend geographical boundaries.
Zumba is a fitness program that involves cardio and Latin-inspired dance founded by Columbian Dancer and choreographer Beto Perez in 2001. It has evolved in many ways and today Elizabeth Moakler, a licensed instructor, provides free senior-friendly Zumba classes being offered to AARP members.
Elizabeth incorporates music not just from the Latin genre but various other music styles. Additionally, she welcomes requests from her participants. Her classes are carefully crafted to provide a gentle and accommodating experience for older adults.
No Judgments Here
What makes Zumba special to Moakler, is that it is a platform where fitness becomes a form of self-expression, showcasing her belief that exercise can be joyful and creative.
One of the more remarkable aspects of her work is the commitment to an inclusive and non-judgmental approach to Zumba. She passionately encourages participants to embrace the free-form nature of the exercise, reiterating that there are no wrong moves. Thus, she provides safe space for all, regardless of fitness level or experience.
Exercise where you want
The COVID-19 pandemic forced Moakler to transition her classes to Zoom providing physical activity and mental engagement during a stressful time. This move also opened the door to a broader, more global audience, quickly transcending borders. The courses attract participants from all 50 states and other countries including Germany and the U.K.
What emerged was not just a series of fitness classes but a tight-knit community and virtual family. Moakler's ability to create a sense of belonging and mutual support is a testament to the power of human connection, even in the digital realm.
Focus on Fitness and Cognitive Health
Moakler's classes primarily cater to older adults, and she underscores the importance of exercise for both physical and cognitive health. She highlights the cognitive benefits of choreography, emphasizing that learning a new skill stimulates the brain's neurons, creating more neural pathways that keep the mind sharp. In her words, Zumba becomes "Sudoku for your feet," reflecting her belief in the cognitive benefits of dance.
Her approach aligns with scientific research. Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School, notes that exercise is one of the most transformative activities for the brain. Research has demonstrated that physical activity enhances mood, and memory, and provides protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. Moakler's work aligns with this science, underscoring the holistic benefits of her fitness program.
Gentle and Inclusive Modifications
Recognizing the unique needs of her senior audience, Moakler ensures that her exercises are gentle and accommodating. She is willing to show modifications, understanding the importance of making the exercises accessible. This flexibility and understanding are key to her program's success.
Free Classes: A Labor of Love
Remarkably, Elizabeth Moakler offers her Zumba Gold Virtual classes for free. While some of her students choose to donate, her motivation goes beyond financial gain. The outpouring of gratitude from her participants who acknowledge the positive impact she has had on their lives, is what drives her. Her commitment to promoting health and happiness among older adults is evident in her selfless approach.
Moakler’s advice is, “Dance like everybody's watching, but just don't care." This is a reminder to shed inhibitions, embrace the joy of movement, and find liberation through dance, regardless of your age or skill level.
Sign up for the Zumba Gold sessions, or other AARP virtual events of events near you.
This story is provided by AARP North Carolina. Visit the AARP North Carolina page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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