What Is Zumba Exercise?

What Is Zumba Exercise?

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The Zumba Fitness Great Calorie Drive initiative.

Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

If you don't know what Zumba exercise is, you might feel as if you are missing out. This high-energy workout that has participants moving to the beat of Latin music has made its mark. As of 2014, more than 14 million people in 185 countries participate in it. Zumba provides a part-dance, part-fitness class. Zumba can bring out your inner dancer while helping you get and stay in shape.

History of Zumba

Like many great inventions, Zumba began as an accident. Alberto "Beto" Perez, a Colombian fitness trainer, salsa dancer and choreographer was headed to teach his aerobics class in the mid-1990s when he reportedly forgot to bring his music. He grabbed a Latin dance music tape he had in his car and improvised. His students seemed to enjoy the class so much fun that he added it to his gym and named it "Rumbacize." It became the most popular exercise class there. Perez moved to Miami, Fla., in 1999. After the dance-exercise class was a hit there, too, Perez renamed the class "Zumba" in 2001.

Move That Body

Although Zumba is based on dance moves, you don't need to be a dancer to participate. If you don't do the steps exactly as the instructor does, it doesn't matter. Plus, the steps are designed so anyone can do them. In no time, class participants are moving as they might in a nightclub instead of in a gym. A typical Zumba class gives off a party atmosphere complete with loud dance music. People typically get the hang of the new moves after about three classes, says Zumba instructor, Kass Martin, in an interview with the Huffington Post. Expect to focus on working your core, but you'll also work out your arms, legs, quads, hamstrings, triceps, biceps and shoulders.

A Workout That Works

The American Council on Exercise wanted to find out whether Zumba is an effective workout. It commissioned a study from fitness researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, which was reported in the September 2012 issue of "Certified News," an ACE publication. Researchers found that after 39 minutes of Zumba, people burned an average of 369 calories, which is more than people typically burn in a comparable session of cardio kickboxing, power yoga and step aerobics. However, most Zumba classes last one hour, and many people burn 500 to 1,000 calories, notes Martin. Zumba provides a full-body interval-style cardio workout that earned a positive rating from ACE.

Zumba Offshoots

There are nine offshoots to the original Zumba fitness. Zumba Toning focuses on body sculpting. Aqua Zumba takes the class to the pool. Zumba Sentao uses a chair as your "dance partner" to help exercise your core and sculpt muscles. Zumba Gold is a low-impact class for older people and fitness beginners. Zumba Gold-Toning is a toning program for older adults. Zumba Kids is for ages 7 to 11, and Zumba Kids Jr. is for ages 4 to 6. Zumbini is a "mommy and me" type of class with a Zumba twist. And Zumba in the Circuit is 30 minutes of Latin-style dancing mixed with interval training.