When people learn that I teach Zumba, they often say, “I can’t do Zumba, I’m too uncoordinated (have two left feet, can’t shake my hips, can’t dance etc).” I tell them they are missing the whole point of Zumba. Zumba is not a dance class; it is a party that happens to be a great workout. The beauty of Zumba is that anyone can do it. There is no right or wrong as long as you move. Some instructors abuse the principle and turn Zumba into a hip-hop or dance class. If you stumble into one, try another; do not assume all Zumba classes are like that.
Music is a big part of Zumba’s success (most health clubs, gyms and fitness studios now have Zumba classes on the schedule). Zumba gives each instructor freedom to choose his or her own music, but classes should include 70% international music, especially Latin based, with the remaining 30% up to the individual instructor. This is why Zumba can seem so different from class to class, the music is an essential part.
The main drawback with Zumba is the failure of the Zumba fitness company to insist that each instructor be certified for group fitness. It is highly recommended, but not required. Unfortunately, some of the licensees do not follow this recommendation; therefore, you should check that your instructor has an accredited group fitness instructor certification before taking class.
Zumba has branched out by adding other variations, including classes geared to baby boomers, seniors and kids. The Zumba Toning classes use light weight training sticks that purport to increase toning and sculpting. The drawback is the sticks are really too light to do much “toning”, and the use of weights (even light weights) at a fast tempo increase the risk of injury. This is especially true when unqualified instructors lead; I have watched Zumba Toning classes that make me cringe.
One other myth you may have heard is that Zumba burns 800 calories a class. Zumba is a great workout, but you would have to work at an extreme high intensity to burn that many calories. Most Zumba classes combine a mix of high and low intensity songs to give an interval like effect. One would need a full hour of all high intensity songs to come near to burning 800 calories. Zumba burns about as many calories as any aerobic type activity (spinning, treadmill etc). Take Zumba because it is fun and a great aerobic workout, but don’t expect to burn 800 calories. Their catch phrase is “party yourself into shape”, try it, you may find it to be true.