Is Zumba a good workout?

ricardo marmitte zes zumba

Is Zumba a good workout? What are the pros and cons of Zumba? And, if you’ve never tried it before, what is a Zumba class like? Let’s discuss.

The Zumba Workout

In any Zumba class, you should expect about an hour of dance-based cardio that begins with a total body warm-up and ends with a little stretching.  The mix of songs, styles, and moves that you do will vary from class to class and instructor to instructor, but your heart should be pumping pretty hard for at least 45 minutes out of that hour.

I called Zumba a “dance-based cardio workout” because you do not need to know how to dance to come to class! You also do not need to like to work out to enjoy a Zumba class! On the other hand, if you are a workout fanatic, you will still find Zumba pretty challenging – a correctly taught class is tougher and more effective than running for the same amount of time.

All you have to do to succeed at a Zumba workout is to follow the instructor and do your version of their moves! (And if you’ve been doing Zumba for a while, I’ve got you – one of my most popular posts gives you 5 ways to get more out of your Zumba class.)  Keep reading for tips on your first class or two!

The Zumba Results

Students in my classes regularly burn between 600 and 900 calories per class. As an instructor, I have burned up to 1200 calories per hour while teaching!

After a few Zumba classes, you can expect your legs, glutes, arms, back, and abs to be stronger and more toned. (Unless you’re cheating on all those arm moves…I see you back there.) If you’re combining your Zumba classes with good nutrition, the cardio should help you achieve the body composition you’re working for. And, while these words might not be familiar to you, working out in open space (rather than on a big machine) is great for your proprioception and kinesthesia – basically, your awareness of where you are relative to yourself and others/other objects – which helps prevent falls, keeps your brain young, and helps with any sport or activity.

You might also find that you are less stressed and have a sunnier outlook on life! Dancing is fun, and we could all use more fun in our lives. Cardio produces a nice endorphin boost, hanging out with cool soon-to-be-friends is way more fun than slogging away on a treadmill, and jamming to your fave tunes on the dancefloor is even better than rocking out to them alone in your car.

img_4655.jpgYour First (Few) Zumba Class(es)

No matter who your instructor is or how amazing they are, it’s totally normal to feel like you have no clue what is going on during your first Zumba class.  Your brain is going a mile a minute while you try to “figure things out”, your feet are totally out of control, and your arms are either glued to your sides or simply flailing.

(“Simply flailing” was the original name of Zumba fitness! I kid, but it’s a common feeling during class – and I promise, you’re doing way better than you think you are!)

The most important thing to do in your first few Zumba classes is just keep going.  Don’t understand the foot movement? Just march. Can’t remember right from left? Neither can your instructor, and it probably doesn’t matter. Eventually your brain will cede control to your body, and you will realize that this is definitely not a thinking class.

Do not worry about what you look like or if you’re getting the “steps” perfectly.  Zumba has nothing to do with perfection, and everything to do with just being present in class!

But I have no rhythm or coordination!

When I invite new students to class, I hear the same concerns about rhythm and coordination over and over again.  To me, this is like inviting someone to dinner and being told “but I haven’t eaten yet!”…that’s the point! Just as we head to the steakhouse because we are hungry, we come to Zumba to develop rhythm and coordination, sneakily, over time, not because we are already perfect.  Honest.  And if all of your classmates look perfect to you, know that you look the same way to them.

So, is it a good workout?

I think Zumba is a fabulous workout because it’s fun, effective, and adaptable for nearly any fitness level and background.  You move in 360 degrees of open space and strengthen all of the major joints and muscle groups in a variety of planes of motion, all while you think you’re at the hottest undiscovered 10am night club.  It’s great cross-training for nearly any sport or activity, and all you need to try it is a pair of sneakers and a smile!

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