What Is Zumba?

A fitness company known for its Latin dance-based group classes

Group of women taking a fitness class

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Zumba is one of the best-known fitness organizations in the world, with more than 200,000 class locations available in 180 countries. And while the brand is best known for its signature "Zumba" Latin dance fitness class, the company offers several additional workout formats, from strength training to kid's fitness classes and even water aerobics classes.

Each workout involves highly choreographed movements set to upbeat salsa and international music. Essentially, Zumba is a fun, high-energy workout experience that keeps you excited to exercise and return for more.

zumba dance fitness
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What is Zumba?

Zumba's most well-known and popular program is its namesake class, Zumba. This dance class features high- and low-intensity intervals that help improve cardiovascular fitness while also enhancing balance, coordination, agility, and to some degree, strength through the application of beginner-accessible choreography.

You don't need any special dance skills to succeed in Zumba classes but those that have natural rhythm may pick up on the moves faster. Still, no one is keeping score, so just dance, let go, and have fun.

Classes typically consist of Latin-inspired songs, starting with a slower warm-up song, building intensity throughout the workout, and ending with a cool-down song. Even if you're not a strong dancer, the choreography is repetitive and designed to be built upon, so most people will catch on to the moves as they go.

History of Zumba

Zumba was officially founded in the United States in 2001 by Alberto "Beto" Perez, a Colombian dancer who started the fitness class in the '90s in his home country. Perez's "rags to riches" story could be considered serendipity—he was teaching an aerobics class at his local gym when he realized he'd forgotten his usual music.

Why Is it Called Zumba?

Zumba is called such because of its similarity to the Cuban music genre rumba. Music is a big factor in these exercise classes, which the name brings to mind.

In 2000, Perez decided to launch his fitness class in the United States. In 2001, he partnered with two investors and released a series of three Zumba DVDs available through an infomercial.

The dance fitness concept wasn't new when Zumba rose to fame, but the high-energy fun of its classes was. Plus, Zumba's timing was ideal. In the early 2000s, large fitness centers, like 24 Hour Fitness and Lifetime Fitness were popping up everywhere, often including group fitness classes as a benefit of membership. These gyms were looking for unique classes to add to the draw of their clubs, and Zumba fit the bill.

Types of Classes

Zumba tends to appeal to a predominantly female audience, but all are welcome. And because the choreography is more-or-less accessible even to those with "two left feet," people of all ages and dance abilities have flocked to the classes, especially during the peak of its popularity between 2005 and 2015.

As a result, the brand added numerous programs to make the class and choreography even more accessible to people of all ages, genders, and fitness levels. Classes include:

  • Aqua Zumba: Perfect for those with lower-extremity injuries or needing low-impact exercise, Aqua Zumba takes the Latin dance craze to the pool.
  • Zumba Gold: This modified version of the standard Zumba class is geared to an older audience that wants the same fun music and flair as a traditional class but performed at a lower intensity.
  • Zumba Kids: Designed for kids between 7 to 11 years old, Zumba Kids modifies and breaks down traditional Zumba moves, then adds games and activities to the class to keep kids engaged and interested as they break a sweat.
  • Zumba Kids Jr.: Similar to Zumba Kids, Zumba Kids Jr. is modified for the 4- to the 6-year-old audience and is positioned even more as a "dance party" to help keep this age group on "task."
  • Zumba Step: The same Latin-inspired dance choreography, but with the addition of an aerobic step to increase the intensity of the workout and add more leg-strengthening moves due to repeatedly stepping on and off the elevated surface
  • Zumbini: This once-a-week, 45-minute class is designed for the littlest Zumba fans between 0 and 3 years old; the little ones and their caregivers meet to bond over music and engage in age-appropriate active play; think less "workout" and more "learning experience."

As strength training classes gained popularity over the past decade, pulling people into CrossFit gyms and choreographed strength classes, the Zumba brand worked on adding more strength options to its repertoire as well, including:

  • Strong by Zumba: A high-intensity bodyweight training workout with movements choreographed to the beat of the music; pushups, squats, burpees, and lunges are staples of this routine
  • Zumba Gold-Toning: Just like Zumba Toning, but at a lower intensity level designed for a somewhat older audience
  • Zumba In the Circuit: Designed as a circuit, alternating between Zumba dance moves and strength training exercises for a full-body workout intended to improve cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength
  • Zumba Sentao: Uses a chair as a "dance partner" to focus on core strength without using weights.
  • Zumba Toning: Incorporates the use of Zumba Toning Sticks (or light weights) to add an element of strength training to familiar Zumba dance moves

How It Works

Almost all Zumba brand classes are designed as 45- to 60-minute group exercise classes led by a Zumba-certified instructor. These are typically offered at gyms and fitness centers, although Zumba instructors are welcome to market classes on their own, hosting workouts at parks, schools, or other venues.

Zumba Basics

Classes consist of a series of Latin dance songs, each with highly choreographed dance movements that build on each other. The first song offers a slower beat to help you get warmed up, with each successive song building in intensity and challenge, with a few lower-intensity dance series built in for recovery. The workout wraps up with a cool-down song.

Between songs, you can grab water and take a second to catch your breath before the next song starts.

Schedules for Zumba are typically based on the gym or fitness center where classes are hosted. For cardio-based fitness classes like Zumba, it's ideal to get on a regular schedule and participating in at least two to three weekly classes.

Overall, Zumba feels like a dance party disguised as a workout—which is exactly what people love about it. Zumba is a safe, fun, and effective workout for most people who want to enhance their cardiovascular fitness through dance. There are few drawbacks to the program, just general precautions you should be aware of when starting any new workout routine.

Benefits

Below are the benefits of Zumba class from physical to practical considerations.

Accessibility

Due to the program's widespread availability and the varied class style, Zumba as a brand is quite flexible and suited to almost all fitness levels and interests.

Even if your local gym doesn't offer Zumba classes, you may find that a nearby swimming pool offers Aqua Zumba or an independent instructor who provides classes with a pay-per-class structure at a nearby park.

How to Find a Zumba Class

Check online or call your local gym studios to find Zumba classes near you. It's a very popular class that has expanded to many locations.

General Fitness

Given Zumba's sustained popularity, many studies have been performed on the efficacy of the workout. One 2016 review of the literature found that Zumba was effective at improving aerobic capacity (cardiovascular fitness), while limited additional evidence pointed to possible enhancements to muscular fitness and flexibility.

Sustainability

One of the most critical factors in exercise is adherence— continuing the exercise program after you start. Generally speaking, the more enjoyable a program is, the more motivated you will be to continue it. And the more consistent you are with a program, the more likely you will experience positive results.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that a Zumba intervention in sedentary adults with metabolic syndrome "showed good feasibility and adherence," which points to the positive sustainability of the program as a whole.

Energy and General Health

While almost any sustained workout program may help boost mood, self-esteem, and energy, Zumba has a few peer-reviewed studies pointing to its psychological benefits of the program.

Namely, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that healthy women who participated in an 8-week Zumba program experienced positive changes in perceptions of physical strength, autonomy, and purpose in life, improving their overall feelings of health and well-being.

Cost

The cost of Zumba is variable, depending on where you take the class. If you're paying on a fee-per-class basis, you're likely to spend between $5 and $25 per class, depending on the setting and the instructor. If you're a member of a gym where Zumba is offered, the class may be included as part of your membership.

If you're on a budget, you can purchase a DVD to work out at home for as low as $10. The flexibility of price, depending on location and needs, makes the program financially accessible for most people.

Zumba doesn't make unrealistic claims about calorie burn or the potential for weight loss or strength gains. Instead, their marketing focuses on improving fitness in a fun way that helps enhance how you feel every day—and more than delivers on those fronts.

Disadvantages

Zumba has a lot of benefits, but there are some potential disadvantages to consider.

Lacks Strengthing and Flexibility Components

The literature is clear that Zumba can provide cardiovascular benefits, but the jury is out on whether there are significant benefits to flexibility and strength. Unless you're taking Zumba classes, such as Strong by Zumba, that expressly incorporate strength-training moves as a primary component of the workout, you shouldn't view Zumba as a well-rounded general fitness class.

In addition to taking two to three Zumba classes a week, you may also want to add a few strength training and flexibility activities to your schedule. Consider trying a 30-minute strength circuit followed by a 10-minute stretching session on days you're not doing Zumba.

Safety Considerations

All fitness programs, regardless of type, carry an inherent risk. You could pull a muscle, twist an ankle, or fall. If you do too much too soon, you can risk excessive soreness or symptoms of overtraining.

That said, the Zumba brand has gone out of its way to developing programs designed for all audiences and age levels, offering varying levels of intensity and challenge to reduce the risk of potential injury.

Zumba is considered a generally safe fitness activity, but because all physical activity carries inherent risk, you should consider your physical health before diving into a program.

If you have a known lower-extremity injury or a history of ankle or knee problems, talk to a healthcare provider before trying Zumba, or start with a lower-impact version of the program, such as Zumba Gold or Aqua Zumba.

And if you're brand-new to dance choreography, don't overdo it and push yourself too hard. Give yourself time to master the movements at your own pace. Moving quickly or without coordination can lead to an increased risk of injury. The critical thing to remember is to ease yourself into a program and to listen to your body, taking rest when you need it.

How Zumba Compares

Zumba is a fun, effective dance workout that is a good option for people who enjoy upbeat music and an energetic group exercise environment. Here's how it compares to other similar classes.

Jazzercise

Jazzercise is the original dance-fitness class that took the world by storm in the 1980s and 1990s. While it experienced a bit of a resurgence in the 2010s, Jazzercise has yet to return to the popularity of its heyday.

That said, like Zumba, it offers choreographed dance moves to upbeat music in a fun, group environment. If you want the atmosphere of Zumba but don't feel comfortable with the booty-shaking vigor of Zumba's dance choreography, Jazzercise might be a mellower option.

BUTI Yoga

BUTI Yoga is a workout that combines high-intensity exercise with African dance-inspired choreography and yoga flows. The nice thing about BUTI is that it really does hit all the bases for general fitness—you'll develop strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance.

The program is also available online and through independent instructors at gyms and fitness centers, so you can access classes pretty much wherever you are.

That said, the movements are less appropriate for a general audience, making it more suitable for healthy adults with a solid baseline of fitness, rather than an older audience or those with known health issues or injuries.

Barre Classes

Barre fitness classes are popular programs most often available at boutique fitness studios. These workouts focus more on flexibility, muscular endurance, and core strength and less on cardiovascular fitness. The movements are slower and more controlled, and while the classes are choreographed, you're not trying to keep up with a series of fast-paced steps.

Barre workouts may be an excellent supplement to Zumba, as strength and flexibility are a greater focus. They're also considered a low-impact workout which can be a good option for beginners or those with known lower-extremity injuries. However, Barre classes often come at a higher price, ranging from roughly $15 to $35 per class.

A Word From Verywell

Zumba provides a fun and positive workout experience with options appropriate for all ages and ability levels. There's a lot of independent research to support the program's efficacy and not much to detract from its potential benefits.

However, if you don't like dancing, fast-paced choreography, or Latin-inspired music, Zumba might not be a good fit for you. But if you're looking for an addictively fun, high-energy group dance workout set to upbeat music, Zumba is a great one to try.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Vendramin B, Bergamin M, Gobbo S, et al. Health benefits of Zumba fitness training: A systematic review. PM R. 2016;8(12):1181-1200. doi:10.1016/j.pmrj.2016.06.010

  2. Araneta MR, Tanori D. Benefits of Zumba Fitness® among sedentary adults with components of the metabolic syndrome: A pilot study. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 2014;55(10):1227-1233.

  3. Delextrat AA, Warner S, Graham S, Neupert E. An 8-week exercise intervention based on Zumba improves aerobic fitness and psychological well-being in healthy women. J Phys Act Health. 2016;13(2):131-9. doi:10.1123/jpah.2014-0535