Zumba fitness has quickly grown to one of the most popular group exercise classes on the planet. In fact, the Latin-dance inspired workout is reportedly performed by more than 12 million people at 110,000 sites, in 125 countries around the world.
“Ditch the Workout – Join the Party!” That’s the marketing slogan for Zumba fitness, which attracts exercisers with a fun fusion of dance moves from styles like Salsa, Merengue, Reggaeton and Flamenco, and the sort of choreography you might see in a nightclub.
“Historically, aerobic dance was always like paint by the numbers,” says John Porcari, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science. “I think sometimes people get frustrated if dance steps get too intricate and complicated. But Zumba fitness leaves more room for interpretation. And it’s non-judgmental. You don’t have to move exactly like the instructor. It’s more like dancing in a club—people can just move the way they want.”
The craze now known as Zumba fitness is said to have started as a mistake by Colombian trainer Alberto “Beto” Perez. One day in the mid-90s, Beto reportedly forgot to bring his regular aerobics-style music tape to the group exercise class he was leading. With no music and a class to teach, he raced back to his car and scrounged up a cassette tape of Latin dance music. As the lively beats of Merengue and Rumba rang out, Beto drew upon his experience dancing in Salsa clubs and choreographing for local artists. Soon he was leading his pupils through a fun series of dance steps—and Rumbacize was born. It was an instant hit, and quickly became the most popular class at his gym. In 1999, Beto brought Rumbacize with him when he moved to Miami. It immediately caught on there as well and, with the help of a pair of entrepreneurs, Beto rebranded his class and transformed it into the global franchise that is Zumba fitness today.
Just because Zumba fitness is fun, however, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an effective workout. Despite its immense popularity, to date very little research has been done to document the potential benefits of this form of aerobic dance.
An instructor coaches a Zumba class in a fitness center.
Zumba classes are typically about an hour long and are taught by instructors licensed by Zumba Fitness. In one Zumba class, a person can burn between 500-1000 calories, depending on the energy put forth. The music comes from the following dance styles: cumbia, salsa, merengue, mambo, flamenco, chachacha, reggaeton, soca, samba, hip hop music, axé music and tango.
There are nine types of classes, for different levels of age:
⦁ Zumba Gold is a program designed for beginners and older people.
⦁ Zumba Step is a lower-body workout that incorporates Zumba routines and step aerobics with Latin dance rhythms.
⦁ Zumba Toning is for people who do their workouts with toning sticks. It targets the abs, thighs, arms, and other muscles throughout the body. This type of Zumba class provides participants with a cardio workout and strength training.
⦁ Aqua Zumba classes are held in a swimming pool. The instructor leads the class poolside while participants follow in shallow water. Moves have been specially adapted to combine the same dance movements used in a Zumba Fitness class with those used in aqua fitness classes.
⦁ Zumba in the Circuit combines dance with circuit training. These classes usually last 30 minutes and feature strength exercises on various stations in timed intervals.
⦁ Zumba Kids and Zumba Kids Jr. classes are designed for children between the ages of 4 and 12.
⦁ Zumba Gold-Toning is a toning class for older participants with goals of improving muscle strength, posture, mobility, and coordination.
⦁ Zumba Sentao is a chair workout that focuses on using body weight to strengthen and tone the body.
⦁ Strong by Zumba was launched in 2016. This specialty combines high intensity interval training with Synced Music Motivation.
Because Zumba offers different options, proponents of the Zumba program claim that it is safe for all ages, meaning that anyone from age 0 to 100 can participate in this form of aerobic exercise. At least some of the classes are specifically aimed at elderly people, to help them build strength, improve motion and posture, and socialize.