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May 2017
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Samba Fitness is a new discipline that combines Brazilian Samba and fitness and teaches participants the basics of an ancient Brazilian dance together with the basics of cardio fitness. A samba fitness class is fun, welcoming and, at the same time, high impact in terms of the calories burnt and the physical workout it entails, and lessons are open to everyone: thanks to classes for different levels, samba fitness can be enjoyed by complete fitness beginners and people who have been practising samba for many years and want to try out this variation to keep in shape. The main component of the lesson is the music because it guides and leads all the exercises and creates a Brazilian carnival-like atmosphere.

Samba originates from Brazil and it is thought that the name samba comes from the Angolan dialect and refers to the word ‘Semba’, which means ‘belly flop’. Practising this type of dance dates back to early 1900s when it was typical of Afro-Brazilians who immigrated and were deported to Brazil. Being a free dance that celebrated the joy of living, samba also has a religious origin: in Salvador di Bahia, where samba probably originates from, slaves deported from Africa were forced to convert to Christianity, and the variety of ethnicities that were forced to mix here gave life to Candomblè, an Afro-Brazilian syncretic religion that was represented by the samba. Over the years, samba schools became more and more popular in Brazil, but the original one is still the school in Bahia (Samba Bajano). Music is fundamental for samba and the pounding and enticing rhythm induces rapid movements of the pelvis, stomach and legs; the body is overcome with a jolting rhythm that goes from the head to the toes.

Samba fitness involves basic samba movements, especially pelvis and leg movements, and it combines them in a choreographic way with aerobic sequences, training all the muscle groups in the body so muscles move in a coordinated and rhythmic way. This physical activity is comprehensive from a physiological point of view: it strengthens the body’s cardiovascular abilities since this is mainly an aerobic activity, but it can also improve muscle strength thanks to the coordinated movements of the arms which indirectly strengthen the skeleton.
Samba fitness is a free weight activity: carrying out the movements does not require any extra equipment or supports to increase the physical effort made. Mats, elastic bands and small hand weights are not used because they are not needed during the lesson and the rhythm of the class is quite high and this does not allow for the use of fitness equipment, even if it is small in size. All that is needed for a lesson is a large hall, a qualified instructor and, of course, the music.
Samba fitness lessons are organised in modules and each module lasts an average of two months. Starting from the beginners module, you can learn the basics of this activity in 4-6 months if you do 2-3 sessions a week. Each lesson is normally 60-75 minutes long and begins with gentle movements carried out to a slow samba rhythm. The goal for the first 10-15 minutes of the lesson is to warm-up the whole of the body by doing gradual movements. Then, slowly but surely, the musical rhythm increases together with the speed of the movements until intense aerobic sequences mixed with samba dance are being done. This part lasts for about 40-50 minutes and, after this, 5-10 minute sessions begin (with each session being separated with active breaks) during which participants catch their breath and prepare for the next sequence.
It goes without saying that the intensity of the workout and continuity of it also depends on the class’s level of fitness: the more advanced the class is, the higher the intensity of the activity is, and the breaks between each session become ever more short. The last 5-10 minutes are carried out at a lower rhythm to allow the body to gradually go back to its normal state. This final part also involves dynamic stretching exercises and these are done as a part of the gentle choreographic sequences, not standing still so the lesson is not abruptly stopped.
Samba fitness is a physical activity for both the body and mind: the rhythm of the beats and high intensity work make participants concentrate and lose themselves in the music in order to find the coordination needed to correctly execute the movements. The instructor is also fundamental in a samba fitness lesson because it is he/she that introduces and explains movements so as to allow participants to execute them correctly.
Each samba fitness lesson burns 300-450kcal and is a very effective toning workout. The beauty of this physical activity is that the fatigue felt during the lesson is somewhat hidden by the fun of the lesson, which is created by the instructor too, and it is no coincidence that the majority of samba fitness instructors are Brazilian.

The benefits of samba fitness
• It improves and strengthens the body’s cardiovascular abilities;
• It improves muscle coordination;
• It improves muscle tone and physical strength;
• It works out the entire body, simultaneously developing the muscle groups;
• It stimulates the skeletal system reducing the on-set on bone and joint diseases, such as osteoporosis;
• The continual changes of direction and different workout levels improve the neuromuscular system’s ability to balance itself;
• It gently improves the posture. The various movements positively affect the muscles that control our posture (the abdominals, lumbar, spinal erector, back and shoulder muscles);
• It tones the body so it looks slim and proportioned without overloading some muscles groups more than others;
• It improves rhythm skills and musical perception;
• It increases one’s overall level of well-being and reduces stress thanks to the production of adrenaline or serotonin, which induces a good mood;
• It creates good team spirit amongst participants;
• It can be done by anyone no matter what their age or level of fitness is.


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