South Omaha Gets In Shape

With the guidance of the University of Nebraska Omaha and the Omaha Parks and Recreation Department, the proactive work of those that promote and support physical conditioning activities in the community which benefit the Latino community, as is the case of Club Pura Vida.

There are two female instructors at said establishment who speak Spanish: sisters Jennifer and Neli Hernandez Briceño who specialize in Zumba, a dance exercise routine of Latino origin.  

According to Mika Dodge, Health Researcher at UNO, Having bilingual instructors is only one of the many benefits on offer at Club Pura Vida.

“A 2013 study revealed the need for a better approach towards the Latino community on health-related topics, to focus on things such as obesity, stress, depression and high blood pressure, among others. Our attempts for involving the Latino community in our physical conditioning programs and activities were not successful since locations were too far, too expensive or had people who only spoke English," said Dodge.

One of the things highlighted in the report is that Latinos feel more comfortable among Latinos, especially in the area around South Omaha. This is why the focus should be on seeking organizations or businesses that can take on the goal of offering healthy, affordable, local, professional and motivational activities.

Club Pura Vida is one of them. Since 2015 it has been regarded as one of the best places for physical conditioning with Zumba. Its prestige allows them to be the club with the largest number of participants with over 600 persons per week.

Jennifer talked about how they started: "When my sister and I were younger we were criticized a lot due to our weight, and even though we were not fat, other people bullied. It was then that we decided to do cardiovascular exercises and we noticed the results in our weight, not to mention how it lowered our stress and raised our self-esteem."

Their personal experience made them become more aware of the current general problems with obesity in their community. This is why they decided to open Club Pura Vida to work on helping other people experiment the benefits they personally experienced thanks to exercising.

Both are certified Zumba instructors. Neli had this to say: "Dance fitness is one of the activities that use several dance techniques as its foundation to apply them to the world of physical conditioning. This way the exercise can become more dynamic and fun since it's a different type of activity with a focus on having fun while you exercise. This combination makes you feel like a single session is not enough, motivating you to keep going as you try something different.

Participants follow choreographies for different dance styles (funky, contemporary dance, Latino, ballroom, etc.), to tone up the body to get a slender shape as you learn new dance moves.

The advantages of dance fitness are an increase in coordination and agility, lowering body fat, improving your cardiovascular capacity, learning new dance moves, improving your wellbeing, lowering depression and stress.

This exercise does not need any special materials or equipment for you to practice it since all you need is a set of comfortable clothing.

According to the Club's experts, out of all the people affiliated with the club, around 75% manage to lose weight, while the rest don't because they have a different goal, "such as gaining weight, lowering their stress, fighting depression, etc."

The UNO expert said that Club Pura Vida has the advantage of being located right in the heart of the Latino community, with large facilities and plenty of parking places, along with having members as young as 15 years of age, and even some who are over 70 years old.

“I'm also aware of how the Briceño sisters have managed to use their outreach pull to organize charitable activities which have managed to help people in need. The pair has even been invited to be part of music videos of famous artists who seek them. This is excellent considering that these types of spaces are great for Latinos to feel comfortable so that they can participate as they continue to improve their health."

Neli had this to say: "Obesity, along with other illnesses, continues to grow, and in order for us to attack it we must continue working on this project that allows men and women to make a stand against being overweight, all in a healthy and fun way and a friendly environment that truly motivates them to reach their personal health goals."

Mika Dodge concluded by saying that Omaha needs more locations like Club Pura Vida, not only for Latinos, but for each of the many nationalities that are part of the growing immigrant population in the city, since they will feel more comfortable and participate if they have exercise opportunities in their language, in their area of operations, directed by their own people, which will without a doubt end up having a positive impact on public health.
Bernardo Montoya

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