By Christie Melhorn, October 4 2016 —
Zumba has been canonized as a staple exercise class that offers a killer calorie burn in a fun, friendly environment. Inspired by Latin American and Afro-Caribbean dance styles, Zumba is the salsa of the fitness world.
As a dance-based class, many people are intimidated. On the flip side, many have a bad taste in their mouth about it in general, dismissing it as a “trend” and not a “real” workout because of its focus on cardio and body-weight resistance exercises. But Zumba is worth a sample and has kept me coming back.
The number of dance styles merged into Zumba may be a nightmare for non-experienced dancers. One dance style alone is intimidating, let alone five or six combined into one. However, this is what gives Zumba its beautiful informality and encourages you to let go. You don’t have to memorize the choreography or perfect the moves.
In contrast to choreography-specific classes, Zumba does not typically include “crossing the floor” in pairs, nor does it highlight one person at a time. Any fear of being put on the spot can be temporarily shelved. However, be prepared to have more eyes on you once the rhythm takes hold and shines through you.
Zumba also nourishes your confidence by making you more comfortable with your body. As your coordination skills are challenged by the funky footwork and animated arms, a positive sense of self-ownership is cultivated. Personally, I get the ultimate endorphin kick from dance and I work harder than I do in more structured workouts for this reason. In the event that you are struggling, know that you are not judged and that it’s okay to reel back and go at your own pace.
Zumba is also an effective full-body workout that enhances endurance and flexibility. The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports explains that dance loosens your joints, improves mobility and increases your range of motion. This can come in handy on those days when you sprint to class and have to wade through a sea of legs and backpacks to get to the one empty seat in the room.
A typical session lasts an hour, which is plenty of time to generate a good sweat and get your heart pumping. The Journal of Science and Sports Medicine explains that Zumba can strengthen your cardiovascular system by elevating your heart rate to 94 per cent of its maximum ability. The infrequent breaks in class will condition your body to sustain movement and teach your mind to keep pushing to the end.
After class, you may find that you are sore in some weird places. As your hips swing in figure-eights and your arms pull in and out and up and down, you use your entire body. Underworked muscles leap at the opportunity to have greater purpose. Luckily, this can lead to greater muscle tone. As a light-hearted but cardio-heavy workout, Zumba is a great way to shake off stress. You won’t be expected to spin on your head and land in a split all by yourself in front of the class. You will, however, be expected to show up and have fun.
And keep in mind — just because a workout is fun doesn’t mean it’s not legit.