Now that Zumba® has been around for a few years, you’ve no doubt heard about it, even if you haven’t yet ventured into a class.
As the story goes, Zumba creator, Beto Perez, arrived at the gym to teach one of his aerobic classes in his home country of Columbia and had forgotten his playlist. The only music he had was a tape with a random selection of Latin music so he popped that into the stereo and threw together a mixed-style dance class on the fly. The students loved it and Zumba was born. Eventually spreading to America via Miami then into the global sensation it is today, complete with video games, head-to-toe gear and even Zumba cruises.
Zumba’s motto is ‘exercise in disguise’ so although it’s a great workout, that comes secondary to having a good time and that’s what gets new students hooked. “Zumba is so much more than a workout because whether you show up to a studio or gym-based class or dance at home, you’re ‘learning and exploring dances from other cultures.” says Madalene Aponte, International Zumba Education Specialist and Zumba Toning Lead ZES (Zumba Education Specialist).
What makes Zumba different than most dance classes is the variety of music and dance styles in one class. Each Zumba class will include Salsa (the evolution of a traditional Cuban dance), Merengue (which originated in the Dominican Republic), Cumbia (from Cuba), Reggaeton (a dance from the underground music scene in Puerto Rico) and even a few pop songs, depending on the instructor.
Zumba is also unique in that students follow the lead of the instructor rather than learning the choreography step-by-step so the class keeps moving and students don’t have to stop to ‘break down’ any steps or movements.
If you’re new to class , “Just come prepared to dance and have a good time,” says Aponte, “The first class will introduce you to the basic rhythms and basic core steps but do not worry about the steps and just feel the music.” She adds that the steps are easy to follow because they are repetitive and, over time, you’ll get more and more familiar with the moves and various dances. One of Aponte’s biggest tips? As with any cardio-based class, “don’t forget to drink water.”
The Benefits of Zumba Workouts and Fitness
Weight Loss and Fat Burning Potential
Don’t let the motto, ‘exercise in disguise’ fool you. Zumba is a low-impact, high-calorie burning cardiovascular workout so many Zumba converts quickly see the numbers drop on the scale. Aponte says that if you attend in-person Zumba classes, you’ll have the added benefit of joining a supportive and motivating community that wants to see you succeed. This will increase the likeliness you’ll continue to attend classes which will add more chance of success in a weight-loss journey.
In recent years, Zumba has added a variety of new class styles that incorporate some strength-training or new equipment but, regardless of the specific class title, Zumba’s roots are in dance and all of these formats include primarily cardiovascular exercise.
Calorie burn will vary, depending on your weight and how intensely you participate but expect to burn about the same number of calories per minute that you would in any low-impact, moderate intensity cardio. More than walking, less than running.
Toning and Muscle Building Potential
Zumba is primarily a cardiovascular workout but in recent years, the fitness phenomenon has added a variety of other class styles that incorporate strength-training. Zumba Toning makes use of ‘toning’ sticks that almost look a lot like longer Dumbbells with tennis balls at the end and vary in weight to provide more resistance work while Zumba’s newest specialty class, STRONG by Zumba, is all about music-based interval-training. Aponte says that STRONG by Zumba is an intense, full-body workout “that uses muscle conditioning, cardio and strength training using your own body resistance in a HITT format.”
Results and Success Stories
“2015. January vs 2016. March. …Just one year. I start to change again my lifestyle in 2015 december and loose 27kg in 4 months. Healthy lifestyle and ZUMBA FITNESS. In totally I lost 52 kg. So everything is possible, just never give up!!! Now i will start again the gym and continue my “dream”, my “passion”, my “life” what was change me: the Zumba Fitness.
I’m not a superstar, and i don’t wanna be as well! I just wanna show to the peoples, that the zumba and healthy lifestyle works.”
“Found myself at 40 when I found Zumba and now at 45, in the best shape of my life…mentally, emotionally, temperament, physically. I changed my life inside and out”
Check out several more Zumba weight-loss and success stories on Zumba’s blog zlife.
Instructional Zumba Videos and Training Tips
If you’re looking for a quick routine for a song or two, YouTube is your best bet. Although Zumba is about having fun and not worrying too much about the specific steps, you can also find tutorials on specific Zumba dances on ZUMBA’s official YouTube Channel. Check out videos like the one below to perfect your moves or prepare for an in-person group class.
If you’re in need of a full at-home workout or exercise options for travel, Zumba sells full-length instructional DVDs and equipment, including their version of a step (called a Zumba Rizer™) and weighted toning sticks for their Zumba® Toning class online.
Although you won’t get quite as much motivation and encouragement as you would in-person, any instructor in an official Zumba-approved video or DVD will be trained and qualified through Zumba and considered part of ZIN™ (or Zumba Instructor Network)
Classes: What to Expect; Should I Take Them?
Nothing beats the energy of a live in-person studio or gym class. When attending your first few Zumba classes, expect to know very little of the choreography but to have fun anyway. Most instructors will stick with a similar playlist for a few weeks at a time which provides repetition and allows students to learn each dance. If you don’t yet know a particular move, just do your best and have fun.
Yes, you can purchase videos and even Zumba-specific props online but nothing compares to the energy of a studio or gym class, full of other people looking to have some fun and get some exercise. Aponte says that when you take Zumba classes you’re “Making friends and joining a community.”
Clothes and Proper Attire
Just like every fitness trend, Zumba gear is abundant in every class even at studios that don’t sell the clothing or swag. As a Zumba newbie, don’t feel pressure to dress a certain way. Just dress in comfortable, sweat-appropriate clothes that are easy to move in – bonus points for bright colors! As far as shoes, they should be supportive, non-slippery athletic shoes. You do not need dance-specific shoes by any means. After a while, if you fall in love with the class, then you might be inspired to rock a Zumba logo top, pants jewelry or even Zumba -brand shoes.