Zumba is an exercise program that was created in 2001 by Alberto “Beto” Perez, a choreographer and dancer, in cooperation with two businessmen. It has grown exponentially since its creation, and now has over 14 million participants in 150 different countries. In addition to the original Zumba classes, there are now Zumba DVDs and video games, programs geared toward seniors (Zumba Gold) and children (Zumbatomic), programs for specific goals, such as resistance training (Zumba Toning), and even programs for water workouts (Aqua Zumba).
This fantastic exercise has been called a “fitness party,” and teachers and students claim that people have so much fun in a class that they forget they’re exercising, which leads them to exercise longer and burn even more calories. The word “zumba” comes from a Colombian word that means to move fast and have fun.
A class usually lasts about an hour, begins with a dynamic warm-up, and ends with stretching and a cool-down period. It incorporates a wide variety of different dance styles, including merengue, salsa, mambo, cha-cha, rumba, flamenco, calypso, and others, but no dance skill or experience is required or expected. Many of the dance moves are choreographed by Zumba, but instructors are encouraged to add their own dance steps and flair, and they sometimes create entirely new routines. Some instructors include belly dancing or hip-hop moves in their classes. The dance moves are matched to upbeat Latin music, and unlike many aerobic dance classes, which often start with a single movement and then add additional motions to create a routine, Zumba dancing often matches the choreography to specific parts of a song — for example, a hip swing every time the chorus of a song begins.
Instructors don’t usually offer much verbal instruction, but they use claps and hand signals to indicate changes or new moves. This can be frustrating to new participants, but because different classes often use the same music, you’ll learn quickly with repeated classes.
The Latin music has slow and fast rhythms, and the dances slow down or speed up to match, so classes incorporate interval cardio training, which some experts say maximizes participants’ fat burning and caloric output, leading to total body toning. Zumba also includes body sculpting movements, so fans say it’s a complete body workout. The American Council on Exercise did a study with participants to see if it truly was an effective workout. To my surprise, participants did get an effective workout because of the interval type dancing that it does.
You can see the results of that study here.
Supporters say that the benefits of this exercise go even beyond improved cardiovascular health and weight loss. Because you lose yourself in the music and your movements, your body may release mood-improving endorphins and relieve stress. Zumba moves will work your core, resulting in stronger abdominal muscles and reducing your risk of back pain. Most importantly, many people claim, is that a Zumba class is fun, not boring, so the class goes quickly, and people are motivated to return and continue exercising.
Classes are usually easy to find at your local gym in Fort Collins. If you decide to try a Zumba class, dress comfortably, and wear shoes that will allow you to pivot and twist easily. Dress in layers that you can remove because you’re likely to sweat, and bring a towel and a water bottle. Some participants also like to wear a heart rate monitor.
The only caveat that I have is you shouldn’t rely on just one type of exercise. Because Zumba only focuses on cardiovascular work, you still need to incorporate some resistance training to build lean muscle tissue to increase your metabolism. Have fun with Zumba, but remember there is never a one size fits all program when it comes to fitness.