Dancing to a catchy tune or an upbeat melody is a type of exercise that has existed for over 20 years in Cambodia. In fact, in Phnom Penh, every morning and evening, you would see groups of people young and old engage in such activities in parks and other public space. The trending exercise these days is aerobic dancing which is dictated differently by each dancing instructor.
The most popular parks for this activity are; the ones surrounding the Olympic stadium, by the riverside, those in front of Wat Botum, Psar Chhas, near the ministry of National Defense, at Koh Pich, and the new democratic park, or the park along national road 5, for instance.
Sor Sopheak, a 35-year-old working at a transportation firm in Phnom Penh, stated that, his job of being an aerobics instructor at the riverside park is not his hobby nor was it a way to get additional income, it was purely accidental, “I thought of it as part of my daily exercise and a regular pastime”.
It is a good thing that this just happens to give him from $3 to $5 to help pay the bills, and more equipment. It took quite a while for him to get used to the dancing and screaming in public, but he has practiced exercising with his headphones on since 2015 when doctors told him that he has hypertension and hyperglycemia.
He has about 10 students at the park and most of them are women aging from 30 to 50 years old. “Most of them are small time business owners and some of them have health problems such as hypertension and diabetes.
When they come to the park, they get to sweat it out every morning, and they told me that it has helped them sleep well and feel better or healthier and they do not even get colds or headaches as frequently as before and their hypertension has also improved,” said Pheak. “It makes me happy when they tell me things like that, I feel like I have done some good deeds, and at the same time, I also become healthier and all my previous health problems are now gone.”
Let us take a look at another type of healthy and fun exercise, the Zumba. The Zumba is done according to international standards of music, movements, and style. Nita Mao is a Zumba instructor and has been one since 2017. “They have recognized me as the first Cambodian Zumba instructor” says Nita Mao.
Even if this type of dancing does not require the impeccability and attention to detail as Khmer traditional dancing, those who want to become instructors will still need to be interested in the dance, talented, born with a body suited to this type of dancing, and are able to comprehend the worlds in Zumba songs, in order to do as much as they can with each session.
Nita is 28 years old, with a slight body, she is doing a number of movements such as walking back and forth, turning her body around and around, and shake according to the beat of the music in front of her Zumba students. She does this for many hours continuously for different classes ranging from classes for 10 year olds up to people in their 30s or 40s.
“My training lasts an hour for each session. We start with the warm-up for three songs, then we go into the main songs which require you to move correctly with the beat of the Zumba style to achieve a beautiful and healthy body,” said Nita.
“When you learn Zumba, you enact movements continuously for the whole hour, both you and the students, and you only take short 5-10 minutes break, because we are afraid we would not finish the programme on time as we have 12 songs to dance to , per session.”
Aside from dancing Zumba style, “We, as teachers, have to joke around with the students and have a bit of fun through our movements to make sure everyone is having a good time. This is mandatory of a Zumba class,” said Nita. “All in all, people attend Zumba class for their health, fitness, and fun, this is exactly the blend between healthy bodies and minds that we want.”
She continued, her Zumba classes are held in high-standard places at different locations, such as Sofitel Hotel, and The Place. For an hour of Zumba class, students need to pay $5. Nita says, “This is a reasonable price considering that the fitness and gym room is of international standard. In foreign countries, they charge a much higher fee than this.”