By Dr. Mercola
Zumba has taken the world by storm—you’d be hard pressed to find a city without a broad roster of classes. Zumba is regarded as being a lot of fun, but how does it rate in terms of fitness?
In one scientific study by the University of Wisconsin, this Latin-inspired dancercise actually fared very well.
Zumba can help you tone and sculpt your body, burn a boatload of calories, while at the same time improving your balance, coordination, and cardio endurance.
It turns out that Zumba may also help your social life. Sporting the slogan, “Ditch the workout—join the party!” Zumba utilizes a fusion of dance moves from Salsa, Merengue, Reggaeton, and Cumbia.
The emphasis is on the fun, rather than the exercise, which draws folks who prefer dancing to pumping iron. Zumba aficionados claim that FUN is the secret ingredient.
Zumba’s Birth Was Unplanned
In 1986, Colombia-born Alberto “Beto” Perez was teaching an aerobics class in his native Cali when he discovered he’d forgotten his usual music. Desperately digging through his bag of tapes, Perez threw together a mix of his favorite salsa and merengue tunes, which ended up being an unexpected hit—and voila, Zumba was born.
After a good deal of success in Colombia and some subsequent entrepreneurial support, Zumba spread across America, starting with Miami in 1999. The word “zumba” is Spanish slang for “buzz like a bee” or “move fast”—and you really DO have to move!
There are now 12 million Zumba enthusiasts across 125 countries. It’s now offered in a variety of styles, including Zumba Gold (for seniors), Zumba Tone, Zumba Step, Aqua Zumba—and even Zumba for kis.
Is Zumba an Effective Workout, or Is It Just Fun?
Despite its feverish popularity, little scientific research has been done to establish Zumba’s fitness benefits. In 2012, a team of exercise scientists were commissioned to determine whether or not Zumba fitness holds up as an effective workout.
The study was funded by a grant from the American Council on Exercise (ACE). The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Department of Exercise and Sports Science set out to determine the average exercise intensity and energy expenditure of a typical Zumba class. They found the following:
Zumba participants burned an average of 369 calories in a single Zumba fitness class, or about 9.5 kcal per minute.
Participants’ average heart rate was 154 beats per minute, which is roughly 80 percent of their average predicted maximum heart rate.
Accepted fitness industry guidelines recommend exercising in the range of 64 to 94 percent of your maximum heart rate to improve cardio endurance, and Zumba met those requirements.
When heart rate monitor strips were examined, they looked much like interval workouts, going back and forth between high intensity and low intensity. Therefore, Zumba can help you burn more calories than a steady-state exercise, such as jogging.
In terms of VO2 max (oxygen consumption), the subjects averaged 64 percent, which is well within industry recommendations of 40 to 85 percent for improving cardio endurance—which increases your longevity!
Of particular note is that maximum heart rate and oxygen consumption responses for all study participants fell within the range of industry guidelines, in spite of their wide range of fitness levels.
In comparison with other exercises tested by the University of Wisconsin, Zumba burned more calories than cardio kickboxing, step aerobics, hooping, and power yoga. This research certainly suggests that Zumba can be a highly effective total-body workout with a wide range of benefits.