Cardinal Zumba works to help Muncie residents move exercise off the back burner and become more physically and nutritionally healthy. 

The idea for creating the program formed after Shannon Powers, assistant professor of kinesiology at Ball State, saw the “staggering statistics” about Muncie residents with obesity and Type 1 diabetes. After finding no program similar to her idea, Powers said she felt she had to do something.  

Powers started Cardinal Zumba in 2014 as a pilot study, and it eventually evolved into an immersive learning program to help students gain experience in a professional setting and spread the idea of healthy living throughout the community.

In August of 2017, the program was expanded to offer free childcare, food and transportation to members to better serve participants and encourage involvement. 

“We want [Cardinal Zumba] to be the place to be,” Powers said. “We want everyone exercising — that’s what they need.” 

The program is run by about 15 students from different majors — including exercise science, health promotion and nutrition and dietetics — and attracts an average of 40 participants each night.

“[Cardinal Zumba] is a collective experience, not just a program for moms,” Powers said. “It’s family, multi-generational oriented.”

Lea Sims, junior health education and promotion major, and Rebeca Thomas, junior nutrition and dietetics major, are among the students working at Cardinal Zumba this semester. 

“For the last year and a half, I had been studying how to correctly run a successful research project, and I was excited to actually have a hands-on experience [through Cardinal Zumba],” Sims said. “Being in a classroom and learning versus being out there, actually putting what you learn into practice just gives a greater appreciation for everything that health professionals do.” 

Students like Sims and Thomas have many responsibilities within Cardinal Zumba to make sure the business runs smoothly. 

They help record exercise tests every three months to track participants progress, including height, weight, blood pressure, waist measurements and grip strength. 

Dietetic and graduate students also help teach participants how to eat and prepare healthy meals during the nutrition classes that are offered alongside the zumba courses. 

Cardinal Zumba also hosts “Ask the Doctor Night” where doctors from IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital are invited to informally discuss different health topics with attendees.

Through participation in Cardinal Zumba, both Sims and Thomas said they have seen many participants grow socially, physically and nutritionally. 

“I did not expect to build somewhat of a bond with the participants,” Sims said. “I see some of them around town and they speak [to me]. Even at zumba there are many different stories you hear, and it is cool that they feel comfortable enough to share with us.” 

As Cardinal Zumba continues to grow, the organization hopes to start offering more programming such as yoga, so that individuals involved can continue to take what they learn and apply it to their lives outside the gym. 

“I hope the participants gain a sense of confidence in themselves and take control of their health,” Sims said. “I also hope they gain a sense of confidence in the people who are running the program because we do have their best interest at heart.” 

Contact Nicole Thomas with comments nrthomas3@bsu.edu