HARKER HEIGHTS — A group of seniors get their heartbeats going as they cha-cha-cha, salsa and merengue across the gym to the beat of Latin music.

“I’m happy I found this class,” said Linda Habhab, 55, of Nolanville, during an Exercise to a Latin Beat class Thursday at the Harker Heights Recreation Center. “We just love it. We get such a good workout.”

The class is a mix of zumba, aerobics and weight training, said instructor Diana Kirby, who has taught the class for three years.

Although she’s not a qualified zumba instructor, she knows how popular the dance fitness activity is and wanted to adapt it for seniors to enjoy. The class provides seniors with short bursts of elevation in heart rate, as opposed to zumba, which results in a higher heart rate for a longer period of time.

“We can’t do that at our age,” said Kirby, adding she also adjusted her class to take balance into consideration.

“(A young zumba instructor) wouldn’t have to worry about that but we do,” Kirby said. “We fall and we have to worry about keeping ourselves from falling and breaking bones.”

Despite the adjustments, Kirby tries to make the class as lively as possible by incorporating different techniques of Latin dance.

“Everybody enjoys the Latin music and that’s why I did something to a Latin beat,” she said.

Habhab immediately fell in love with the class in January and has been coming weekly ever since. She usually works up a sweat and said the class, which has helped her stay in shape, is a real life-saver. It’s also a bonus to have an instructor who gets to know her students and their limitations.

“(Diana’s) so enthusiastic and she just motivates us and the music is awesome,” Habhab said. “She’s so full of life and enthusiasm.”

Kirby, a retired master sergeant, is good at directing the class and recognizes her students’ capabilities.

“It’s good to have an instructor that knows when to push you,” said Toni Scharff, of Nolanville, 64. “If she thinks we’re slacking, she gets us going.”

Scharff decided to take the class, designed for residents 55 and older, to get an age-appropriate workout.

“If I know one of my students has certain things they have to be careful with, I try to adjust it,” Kirby said.

The class incorporates weights to tone arms and gives seniors a full-body workout.

“We lose weight in here,” Kirby said. “There’s a lot of benefits, plus I make them have a good time.”

Contact Sarah Rafique at srafique@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7549. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

I'm the education reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald. Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SarahRafique

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