Feature Archive

Adding Culture to Exercise

Hip new exercise classes incorporate ethnic themes.

WebMD Feature It's Friday night and the sound of Latin salsa is pulsating from a studio on Manhattan's Lower West Side. But the people inside aren't swaying to the music; they're working out on stationary bicycles: "indoor cycling." Instructor Giovanni Ortiz urges his class on, shouting "Muevetelo! Move it!" with a swivel of his hips.

As the country's population continues to diversify, so too does the demographic of those who teach workout classes. Bringing their cultures to the job, Ortiz and other instructors are reinventing the fitness craze popularized by Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons 20 years ago.

Ortiz first taught indoor cycling using meditative music filled with wind-like sounds and eerie flutes. But he quickly discovered the power of Latin music. "You need enthusiasm to do [indoor cycling]," he says. "Latin music gets to the heart of the matter. It gets into your soul."

Some instructors say they develop new classes from a desire for a change of pace. Others want to distinguish themselves in the booming fitness market.

"The easiest way to be different is to go back to your roots," explains Ken Alan, spokesman for the American Council on Exercise. "I think we're going to be seeing more and more of these kinds of programs in the future."