Zumba Fitness®: It’s Fun, But Is It Effective?
“Ditch the workout. Join the party!” Many of us have heard this marketing slogan for the hot and ever-so-popular fitness class Zumba®, but can you be a part of the party and still get a great workout? Inquiring minds wanted to know! The American Council on Exercise (ACE®) took that question to John Pocari, PhD, and his team at the University of Wisconsin—LaCrosse’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science and got the facts about the effectiveness of the Latin-inspired dance fitness workout that's being performed by more than 12 million people worldwide.
This ACE-sponsored study was designed to determine the average exercise intensity and average number of calories burned during a Zumba Fitness® class. All 19 subjects in this study were healthy females ranging in age from 18 to 22 years old, and each had previous experience taking Zumba Fitness® classes. Once baseline fitness levels were established for all study subjects (researchers measured heart rate and oxygen consumption while participants used a treadmill), each woman participated in a single Zumba session while wearing a heart rate monitor. While the length of the class varied depending on which day it was conducted (class lengths were anywhere from 32 to 52 minutes each), the same Zumba-certified instructor taught all of the sessions.
When they analyzed all the data, researchers found that participating in a single Zumba Fitness® class burned 9.5 calories per minute, on average, making it both a fun and effective workout. In fact, Zumba Fitness® classes have been shown to burn, on average, more calories per minute than other popular group fitness classes such as step aerobics, Pilates, hooping, and power yoga, formats that have also been the subjects of research at the University of Wisconsin—LaCrosse.
With that being said, researchers concluded that Zumba Fitness® classes serve as an excellent way to improve cardiorespiratory fitness while also positively affecting body composition. And because the classes incorporate numerous hip and midsection movements, they’re also a great way to strengthen the core and improve flexibility. It is, however, important to keep in mind that depending on the choreography and the instructor, there can be a wide range of intensity levels across Zumba® classes, just like any other group fitness modality.
The bottom line is that when it comes to long-term adherence to regular exercise, the enjoyment factor is key and Zumba® has proven that there’s no shortage of fun in these high-energy (and effective) classes.
Interested in learning more? Check out the full ACE-sponsored Zumba® study!
Jessica Matthews is an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. As a contributor to The Juice Bar, she'll be giving you the scoop on the latest fitness classes, decoding newfangled gym equipment, debunking exercise myths, and more.
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