You may not feel like you're getting traditional cardio exercise as you spin, shake and wave on the dance floor, but Zumba mimics a traditional gym workout in terms of health benefits and calorie burning. One of the main differences, however, is the "fun factor." Performing Zumba is similar to dancing in a Latin nightclub, incorporating rumba and merengue beats into a somewhat loosely structured workout style.
In a study published by The American Council on Exercise in 2012, researchers analyzed the physical effects of a Zumba workout. They found that the average participant reached 80 percent of maximum heart rate during Zumba, indicating a vigorous aerobic workout. At the gym, running on a treadmill or using an elliptical machine or stair stepper at a high speed or resistance setting would offer similar results. As aerobic activities, both performing Zumba and using cardio gym equipment can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, improve immune function, reduce your risk of dementia in old age and even prolong your life, according to MayoClinic.com.
Losing weight requires burning more calories than you consume, and both Zumba and gym workouts can help. ACE reports that the average Zumba session burns about 9.5 calories per minute, which works out to 285 calories per 30 minutes of activity. This is comparable to the amount of calories burned using gym equipment. In 30 minutes, a 155-pound person burns about 223 calories on a step machine, 260 calories using a rowing machine, 260 to 391 calories on a stationary bike or 335 calories on an elliptical machine.
At the gym, you have a variety of resistance-training options such as free weights, barbells, cables and weight machines. In contrast, traditional Zumba is pure cardio and does not provide a resistance workout. But some Zumba classes blend the two and may be able to replace resistance equipment at the gym. Try Zumba classes that incorporate circuit training or handheld weights, or look for the words "strength training" in the class description.
Workout recommendations are the same for Zumba and traditional gym workouts. Aim for at least 150 minutes of cardio per week and also perform resistance training two to three times weekly. Combined cardio/resistance Zumba classes may fill both of these requirements at once; however, you need to work all major muscle groups, including legs, buttocks, torso, chest, back and arms for a well-rounded resistance workout. Warm up before gym workouts with five to 10 minutes of light to moderate cardio -- your Zumba instructor should also provide a warm-up. If you're new to exercise, consult a physician before starting a new workout program.
- American Council on Exercise: Zumba: Sure It's Fun, But is It Effective?
- MayoClinic.com: Aerobic Exercise: Top 10 Reasons to Get Physical
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- Zumba.com: Classes
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?
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