If you’ve ever watched a Zumba class, you’ve probably noticed its uncanny resemblance to the dance floor of a popular club on a Saturday night.
Instead of the grunts you’d hear at your typical CrossFit or indoor cycling class, a Zumba class boasts catchy dance music, clapping hands, and even the occasional “Woo!” or gasp of excitement from an enthusiastic participant.
Zumba is a workout featuring movements inspired by various styles of Latin American dance, performed to music. It’s become a popular and trendy workout across the globe.
But is it effective in burning calories, toning your arms, and sculpting muscles? Read on to discover the surprising benefits of Zumba.
It’s a Full-Body Workout
Designed as a combination of salsa and aerobics, there’s no right or wrong way to do Zumba. As long as you move to the beat of the music, you’re participating in the exercise.
And since Zumba involves movement of the entire body — from your arms, to your shoulders, to your feet — you’ll get a full-body workout that doesn’t feel like work.
You’ll Burn Calories (And Fat!)
A 2012 study found that a standard, 39-minute Zumba class burned an average of 9.5 calories per minute, or 369 calories in total throughout the class. Since the American Council on Exercise recommends that individuals burn 300 calories per workout in order to promote weight loss and maintain a healthy body weight, Zumba fits the criteria perfectly.
Evidence also shows that a 12-week Zumba program can provide significant improvements in aerobic fitness.
You’ll Build Endurance
Since music played during a Zumba class is relatively fast paced, moving to the beat can help build your endurance after just a few workouts.
One study found that after 12 weeks of a Zumba program, participants showed a decreased heart rate and systolic blood pressure with an increase of work, trends that coincide with an increase in endurance.
You’ll Improve Cardiovascular Fitness
According to the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, accepted fitness industry guidelines indicate that individuals should exercise between 64 and 94 percent of their HRmax (a measure of an athlete's maximum heart rate), or 40 to 85 percent of Vo2 max (a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use) to improve their cardiovascular fitness.
According to one study, all participants of a Zumba session fell within these HRmax and Vo2 max guidelines. Exercising at an average of 79 percent of HRmax and 66 percent of Vo2 max, all participants met the criteria for recommended exercise intensity, making Zumba an efficient workout in increasing aerobic capacity, a measure of cardiovascular fitness.
Improved Blood Pressure
A 2015 study involving a group of overweight women found that after a 12-week Zumba fitness program, the women experienced a decrease in blood pressure and significant improvements in body weight.
Another 2014 study found a decrease in blood pressure in participants after a total of just 17 Zumba classes.
It’s Adaptable for Any Fitness Level
Since the intensity of Zumba is scalable — you’re moving on your own, to the beat of the music — it’s a workout that everyone can do at their own intensity level!
Since Zumba is a group activity, you’ll essentially be welcomed into a social situation any time you step into a class.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, benefits of group workouts include exposure to a social and fun environment, an accountability factor, and a safe and effectively designed workout that you can follow along with. All of this is instead of a workout plan you must design and follow through with on your own.
It Can Increase Your Pain Threshold
Want to get tough? Try Zumba! A 2015 study found that after a 12-week Zumba program, participants were found to have a decrease in pain severity and pain interference.
You Can Improve Your Quality of Life
Combining the health benefits that an effective Zumba program provides with the social benefits of a group workout, individuals can enjoy an improved quality of life.
So, who’s ready to dance? Try a Zumba class at your local gym today.
Erin Kelly is a writer, marathoner, and triathlete living in New York City. She can regularly be found running the Williamsburg Bridge with The Rise NYC, or cycling laps of Central Park with the NYC Trihards, New York City's first free triathlon team. When she isn't running, biking, or swimming, Erin enjoys writing and blogging, exploring new media trends, and drinking lots of coffee.