Curbing stress with Zumba


Gillian Holte/Iowa State Daily

Senior Sherly Aguilar instructs a Zumba class in State Gym on Sept. 20. Zumba is offered at State Gym on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Times vary.

Adolfo Espitia

Attending weekly fitness classes, like Zumba, may lower stress levels for students with demanding lifestyles.

According to the National College Health Assessment, stress has been the leading factor affecting academic performance since 2010, specifically for Iowa State students. Falling into academic pressure may lead to unwanted stress affecting a student’s daily life.

Piling stress has adverse effects for a student’s well-being which could potentially affect their academic performance, according to the assessment.

Combating stress with exercise provides numerous benefits for a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Beginner-level fitness classes, like Zumba, aim to bring an exciting and fun approach with a Latin and English inspired playlist. 

Erin Baldwin, assistant vice president for student health and wellness and director of Thielen Student Health Center, said stress can manifest itself in physical, mental, emotional and behavioral areas. A few examples of signs include: trouble sleeping, exhaustion, trouble concentrating, feeling depressed and poor health habits.

“Stress can become so overwhelming that it becomes the primary focus for the student,” Baldwin said. “It may paralyze them in the sense that they are not able to function in those areas.”

Integrating exercise in a student’s schedule is an option for stress management. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week for adults. Jacob Meyer, assistant professor in kinesiology who specializes in exercise and mental health, said exercise can reduce stress levels even hours and days after a single session.

Students aren’t limited to traditional exercise; Meyer stressed the importance of finding enjoyable activities.

“It’s more important that people are doing something they think is fun because next week those people who enjoyed what they did will be back,” Meyer said.

Uplifting, hip-shaking music is a high energy option for students to let loose. For Zumba instructor Megan Johansen, junior in accounting, her attendance began as a way to relieve stress, a way to forget about everything and dance.

“You’re just having fun and forget you’re working out,” Johansen said.

As a beginner to intermediate intensity-level classes, Zumba has received positive feedback from students. Multiple instructors offer unique styles that may appeal to any student.

“Everyone is really excited about it, it doesn’t matter if they know how to dance,” Johansen said.  “It’s easy to walk in and join, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing it right it’s just about having fun.”

Classes are 50 minutes and offered on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Students interested can reserve a spot by signing up at Iowa State’s recreation services websiteStudents struggling with chronic stress can also check the student health and wellness page to learn more about other free resources on campus.