Currently, one of the most popular group fitness classes in clubs
is Zumba®. Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance workout first developed
in Columbia in the mid- '90s by celebrity fitness trainer Alberto "Beto"
Perez. Zumba was actually developed by "accident," when Beto
forgot to bring his traditional aerobics music to class one day. The only
music he had was a few Latin music tapes in his car. In his class, he
let the music motivate him, just as if he were in a club, and began dancing
to Salsa, Rumba, and Merengue. His participants loved it and Zumba was
One of the reasons that Zumba is so popular is that its creator claims
that "there is no right or wrong way to do it;" participants
are encouraged to move to the beat of the music and the choreography is
less formal than in many other group exercise classes. It is more of a
dance party and the popular catchphrase: "Ditch the workout - join
the party!" has become associated with Zumba. Zumba is currently
performed by over 12 million people, at 110,000 sites, in 125 countries
around the world (Zumba Fitness, 2012). Recently, Zumba was ranked 9th in terms of
worldwide fitness trends for the year 2012 (Thompson, 2011). Despite the widespread popularity of Zumba, there is
very little research documenting the potential fitness benefits of this
dance form. This study was designed to determine the average exercise
intensity and energy expenditure during a Zumba fitness class.
Nineteen apparently healthy female volunteers (19 ± 1.4 years, 1.68 ±
0.07 m, 61.8 ± 22.5 kg) were recruited from the University of Wisconsin-La
Crosse campus. All subjects were experienced at participating in Zumba
fitness classes. Prior to participating in the research study, subjects
completed the PAR-Q and provided written informed consent. The research
protocol was approved by the local Institutional Review Board.
Each subject performed an incremental, maximal treadmill test with measurement
of heart rate (HR) and oxygen consumption (VO2). From this
test, an individual linear regression equation was developed for each
subject to predict VO2 from HR. This equation was subsequently
used to predict VO2 (ml·kg-1·min-1) during
the Zumba session for that subject. Energy expenditure was calculated
from the predicted VO2 data assuming a constant of 5 Kcal·L-1
of O2 consumed. Pilot studies in a subset of the study group
(n = 3) had demonstrated that the HR-VO2 relationship during
treadmill exercise accurately reflected the HR-VO2 relationship
After the treadmill test, participants participated in a single Zumba
session. The Zumba classes were all taught by the same ACE-certified instructor.
During the class, subjects wore a radiotelemetric heart rate monitor.
The HR data was subsequently inserted into the individual HR-VO2
regression equation to estimate VO2 and energy expenditure
during the class.
Average physiological responses to the Zumba session are presented in
Table 1. The average HR was 154 ±
14 bpm, which corresponded to 79 ± 7.0% of HRmax. The average estimated
VO2 was 66 ± 10.5% of VO2 max. The average estimated
energy expenditure of participating in a Zumba session was 9.5 ± 2.69
Kcal·min-1, which corresponded to an average of 369 ± 108 Kcal
to accepted fitness industry guidelines, individuals should exercise between
64-94% of HRmax or 40-85% of VO2max to improve cardiovascular
fitness (ACSM, 2010). All of the subjects who participated in the Zumba sessions
fell within these guidelines. During the study, subjects were exercising
at an average of 79% of HRmax and 66% of VO2max, which should
be sufficient to increase aerobic capacity. Even though there was a wide
range of fitness level amongst the subjects in the current study (VO2max
= 38.8-60.0 ml·kg-1·min-1), all of the subjects
met ACSM's criteria for recommended exercise intensity.
ACSM further recommends that individuals expend 300 Kcals/workout in order
to promote weight loss and maintain a healthy body weight (ACSM, 2010). This study found that participating in a Zumba dance
class used an average of 9.5 Kcal·min-1, or 369 Kcal for an
average length class. It should be pointed out that average class length
in the current study was approximately 39 minutes in length. Longer classes
would obviously result in greater energy expenditure. Thus, regular participation
in Zumba should positively affect body composition.
The only other published study which examined the exercise intensity of
Zumba was conducted at Adelphi University (Otto et al., 2011).
It reported caloric expenditure during Zumba to be between 6.6 and 7.4
Kcal·min-1 (vs. 9.5 Kcal·min-1 in the current study),
depending on the particular dance style being performed. Additionally,
the oxygen cost of participating in Zumba was lower than in the current
study (6.6-7.3 METs vs. 8.8 METs). Differences between the two studies
could be attributed to subjects actually wearing the metabolic equipment
while performing the dance sequences in the Adelphi study. This may have
encumbered subjects in their movements, thus resulting in a lower energy
cost. In the current study, subjects wore only a HR monitor and energy
cost was estimated from individual HR-VO2 regression equations
developed from the incremental treadmill exercise test. Additionally,
there appears to be a wide range in the intensity of Zumba and other group
fitness classes, depending upon the choreography and enthusiasm of the
instructor. The enthusiasm of the instructor, as well as the experience
of being in a group setting, often spills over to the participants, who
then work harder. This cannot be captured when following video-taped workouts.
All of these factors could account for the differences between studies.
Regardless of these differences and the apparent effectiveness, the growing
popularity of Zumba warrants additional research into this growing fitness