How It Works
Grooving to the beats of salsa, flamenco, and merengue music feels more like a dance party than a workout, which is exactly what makes Zumba so popular. The Latin-inspired dance workout is one of the most popular group exercise classes in the world.
The high-energy classes are set to upbeat music and feature choreographed dance numbers that you might see in a nightclub. You don’t need to be a great dancer to feel welcome in a Zumba class. With the tag line, “Ditch the Workout, Join the Party,” the classes emphasize moving to the music and having a good time, no rhythm required.
There are several different kinds of Zumba classes, from Aqua Zumba workouts to classes like Zumba Toning that incorporate weights for additional calorie burning and strength training. There are even Zumba classes for kids.
Working up a sweat in the 60-minute classes burns an average of 369 calories -- more than cardio kickboxing or step aerobics. You’ll get a great cardio workout that melts fat, strengthens your core, and improves flexibility.
Intensity Level: Medium
Zumba is an interval workout. The classes move between high- and low-intensity dance moves designed to get your heart rate up and boost cardio endurance.
Areas It Targets
Core: Yes. Many of the dance steps used in the routines emphasize the hips and midsection to help strengthen the core.
Arms: No. Traditional Zumba classes do not target the arms. Specialized classes like Zumba Toning use weights to help strengthen and tone the arms.
Legs: Yes. The jumps and lunges that are parts of the choreographed movements help work the quads and hamstrings.
Glutes: Yes. You’ll feel the burn in your buns while you move to the beat.
Back: No. Though the workout involves your whole body, it's not focused on your back muscles.
Flexibility: Yes. The dance moves were designed to enhance flexibility.
Aerobic: Yes. The high-and low-intensity intervals make Zumba an excellent cardio workout.
Strength: Yes. Traditional Zumba workouts emphasize strengthening the core, while Zumba Toning and Zumba Step workouts incorporate weights to build muscles in the arms, legs, and glutes.
Sport: No. The classes are not considered sports.
Low-Impact: No. The classes are high-energy and involve jumping, bouncing, and other high-impact moves.
What Else Should I Know
Cost: Yes. You’ll need to sign up for classes through a fitness center or buy Zumba DVDs to follow the choreographed steps.
Good for beginners: Yes. Zumba emphasizes moving to the music and having fun regardless of your fitness level.
Outdoors: No. The classes are offered in fitness studios.
At home: Yes. You can buy Zumba DVDs and follow the dance workout at home.
Equipment required: None, except for your sneakers.
What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:
Zumba is one of the most fun and versatile fitness crazes to come along in a long time. Classes can be geared for just about any fitness level. Though most Zumba involves high-impact moves like bouncing and jumping, it can be modified to meet your needs.
If you want an overall strength training program, look for a Zumba class that incorporates some light weights for your upper body.
You can start slowly if needed, or you can dance your heart out if you are in great shape. If you just love to move your body to the music, then Zumba is for you.
Talk to your doctor before joining a class if you have been inactive, have any medical issues, or take any medicines, just to make sure Zumba is right for you. And talk to instructors before class about your fitness level and any health conditions you have so they can suggest modifications.
Is It Good for Me if I Have a Health Condition?
If you have been hooked on the Zumba beat since before you became pregnant, you have no problems with your pregnancy, and it’s OK with your OB-GYN, then you can keep stepping. But there are some changes that you need to make to stay safe.
Zumba has a lot of high-impact moves that can wreak havoc as your hormones loosen up your joints. Talk to your instructor about switching out some of those jumps and bounces -- or any routines that might throw you off balance. And remember to stay cool and hydrated during your workout.
If you have a handicap or other physical limitation, consider wheelchair Zumba classes, which are a good, fun, nonweight-bearing workout.
If you have diabetes, Zumba is a great way to lose weight and build muscle. Your blood sugars will go down as your energy level soars. Check with your doctor first to see if you’ll need to change your diabetes treatment plan.
Besides losing weight, Zumba can help lower your risk of heart disease, reduce your blood pressure and bad cholesterol, and boost your good cholesterol. If you have heart disease, your doctor may suggest starting back on the road to fitness in a cardiac rehab program instead of jumping right into a Zumba class.