Zumba was born in Colombia in the 1990s, quite by accident. A fitness instructor forgot to bring his usual workout music to class, so he grabbed some Latin albums from his car, ditched the constraints of a traditional workout and danced just like he would at a club. His class followed along, sweating to the salsa and rumba beats, and loving it.
Since then, Zumba has pitched itself as more of a party than a workout. Indeed, some research suggests it may be the very best workout for people who hate to exercise.
A Zumba class is like any other instructor-led workout, but with simple dance moves heavy on the hips and step counts. Those moves add up to a decent sweat, says John Porcari, a professor of exercise and sport science at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. He and his colleagues analyzed a group of women who were Zumba regulars and found that a 40-minute class burns about 370 calories, a little more than nine calories per minute. That’s roughly the same amount you’d work off if you ran at a slow-ish pace or biked at 15 miles per hour for the same amount of time.
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.