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On the move

Some dancers prefer tap, others ballet or swing for Colonie Central High School students and staffers, Zumba is the step of choice.

The exercise program combines dancing, exercise and multicultural elements to create a diversified experience. Cheryl Beckmann, who runs the class every Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. in the high school cafeteria, said exercise is a great habit to start early in life.

If they start exercising at this age, hopefully they will keep doing it into adulthood," Beckmann said.

It is part of the school's health and wellness initiative, and students who participate are given extra credit in their physical fitness classes.

Sue Pedone, a physical education teacher at the high school, said she gives her students one class credit for attending a full Zumba session.

Zumba utilizes "hypnotic Latin rhythms and easy to follow moves" to create a unique experience. The program's goal is to get people motivated and for people to achieve lasting results in a one-hour workout of "calorie burning, body-energizing, awe-inspiring movements," according to the program's Web site Zumba.com

"We want you to work out, love working out and get hooked," the site reads.

Beckmann said last year she had students who came to Best Fitness, a gym she taught the dance-fitness activity at, and she was inspired to bring it to the school. She said many of her students do not play sports and are looking for fun ways to get healthy.

"I think it's important for everyone," Beckmann said. "It makes you feel better."

Beckmann, a Spanish teacher, said she brings a variety of multi-cultural songs and rhythms including popular tunes from "Baliwood" films like "Slumdog Millionaire."

She estimates about 50 to 70 students and staff participate in the program.

Tami Sherry, a lab teacher who participates in the after-school class, said the benefits are more than just keeping in shape.

"I absolutely love it," she said. "I defy people to come here and not smile."

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