Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Senior teaches Zumba to local elementary students

Students at four Tuscaloosa elementary and middle schools are getting a little shake, shimmy and slide added to their after-school program, thanks to University of Alabama student Lisa Brady.

Brady, a senior majoring in psychology, has brought the hit dance-workout program Zumba to Maxwell, Matthews and Cottondale Elementary schools as well as Davis-Emerson Middle School. After Tuscaloosa’s One Place, a family resource center, approached her about coming to teach, Brady dedicated four afternoons a week to instructing Zumba for the students.

“I teach Monday through Thursday,” Brady said. “It’s a lot of fun – it keeps me going.”

Brady said at Davis-Emerson the groups she instructs could be up to 30 students, while at the elementary schools group size varies at around 10-15 students. Brady works with the groups of students for 35 minutes.

“They love it,” Brady said. “The elementary kids have so much energy. They get so into it. It’s first through fifth [grade] – they don’t care what they look like dancing. They just want to move.”

Brady said the older age groups, on the other hand, pose a bit of a challenge.

“Middle schoolers can be a little tougher,” she said. “That takes a little more work on my part to get them into it. But I can do more difficult moves with them.”

Lamont Hall, the Tuscaloosa One Place coordinator for the Davis-Emerson after-school program said he has seen a difference in the middle school students’ attitudes since they began having Zumba once a month.

“Originally, there were some really excited about it and some weren’t,” Hall said. “Now some of them, who might not have originally been excited about it, have really started to look forward to it on Wednesdays.”

Hall said previously physical activity was not always a planned part of the program, with occasional trips to the gymnasium but no set time and activity.

“We’re just trying to incorporate it to where they can at least understand the importance of exercise and doing things and have fun doing it,” Hall said.

Brady said the addition of exercise to the students’ routine can increase self-esteem, positivity and levels of hopefulness in the students. She said it’s part of new research that has found working out before sitting down to learn can actually allow students to form stronger mental connections in the learning process.

“There’s a lot of research about getting your heart rate up before sitting down to learn,” Brady said. “It literally opens up neurological paths in the brain.”

Lupe Odom, the Tuscaloosa’s One Place after-school coordinator at Cottondale Elementary School said she has seen more focus in her students.

“I think it helps them focus every week,” she said. “It helps that energy they have.”

Odom said Cottondale had karate as part of its program last year. When Zumba was brought to the school, she said some students, like at the middle school, were hesitant at first but have come to love it.

“They’re open about it,” Odom said. “There are some very doubtful at first. Especially boys. But then they actually end up liking it more than the girls.”

Local Tuscaloosa schools aren’t the only places Brady is combining physical and mental activity.

“I’m doing a research project right now in Marion, Ala.,” Brady said. “We’re hoping to incorporate physical activity into the classroom during class hours.”

Brady said, for multiple reasons, now is the time to get students moving. For one, the alternative activity is likely sedentary.

“I think after-school is so great, because otherwise they could be at home playing video games or sitting around,” she said.

“If you start at an elementary or middle [school] age, by the time they get older they’ll take that with them, that it’s important to incorporate physical activity into daily life,” Brady said.

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