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Zumba dance class

A Guide To Zumba And Dance: Benefits And Workouts

7 MIN READ • 26th October 2021
Daniella Gray by Daniella Gray

Often coined ‘exercise in disguise’, Zumba is perfect for anyone and everyone! Your local leisure centre has probably been offering classes for years, but you may feel reluctant to try one. Unlike hip-hop dancing, Zumba mixes easy-to-follow moves drawing on Latin rhythms, like salsa and reggaeton, for a calorie-burning dance fitness party like no other. It’s a total body workout that combines all elements of dance fitness – cardio, muscle conditioning, balance and flexibility.

What are the benefits of Zumba classes and dance?

Zumba benefits go beyond your average workout, with women (and men!) being transformed by the power of this aerobic exercise all over the world. Here are the precise benefits of zumba training and dancing in general.

Dancing keeps you mentally active

“Studies have shown that the occurrence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can be reduced by exercises such as dancing,” says Dr Jo Rodda. “Not only is it fun, social and engaging, but it’s also a great way of incorporating exercise into your weekly routine. Learning and remembering new steps activates many neural pathways in your brain, keeping it strong, active and healthy.”

Dance improves your balance

“Dancing improves balance and neurological control of your arms and legs,” explains physiotherapist, Tim Allardyce. “Doing lifts, drops and rotations are all good for proprioception, which is knowing where your body is in your surrounding space. Dancing allows you to build up strength in your smaller supporting muscles, as well as throughout your core, which prevents falls and reduces the chance of injuries, especially as we get older.”

Zumba raises your heart rate

Not only does it get your heart rate up, you’ll be torching fat while you move your body to the beat of Zumba! How many calories does Zumba burn, you ask? Around 300 per class. Neat. Dancing improves the health of your heart and general cardiovascular fitness. It raises the heart rate and gets blood pumping to the extremities. A 30-minute dance class can burn between 130 and 250 calories, and the social aspect of it can make it somewhat more fun than going for a run by yourself. If maintaining perfect posture is on your wishlist, why not try a Zumba class? It’s the perfect fusion of dance and aerobics.

Dancing makes your muscles more flexible

“Dance teaches flexibility and usually includes lots of stretching,” says Rosie Holman, dance organisation founder. “Our muscle mass reduces by three to five percent each decade, leading to greater weakness and less mobility. By increasing your flexibility, you’ll not only improve your performance in day-to-day activities, but also avoid a range of injuries that often come with a sedentary lifestyle.”

Dance curbs back pain

Working from home giving your back grief? We hear you. Having a boogie involves a lot of rotation, and a minimal amount of forward bending, so there can be significant benefits to your back, such as increasing your range of motion in your vertebrae. “Stiff backs are very common, but getting moving and undertaking rotational activities like dancing can help you to stay mobile,” advises Tim.

Zumba can help with muscle conditioning

From your biceps and triceps to glutes and hamstrings, Zumba is a full body workout, meaning you’ll help to tone your muscles and boost your cardiovascular fitness in the process. “Moving to a beat is great for strengthening your legs and improving tone in the leg muscles,” says Tim. 

“Dancing involves shifting onto one side, placing weight through one leg, and often a lot of lunging and single-leg squatting. These movements strengthen the lower limb (quadricep, gluteal, calf and hamstring muscle groups), helping the muscles to build strength and stability.” Try a strength training workout to supplement this!

Zumba aids weight loss

If you’re wondering if Zumba is good for weight loss, the answer is yes. Like any exercise class, dancing and aerobic training burns calories and thus, helps you to lose weight when paired with a healthy diet. 

You’ll feel good while you’re dancing

Dancing is a great form of aerobic exercise that gets the blood pumping and the heart-rate up. Pair the physical challenges of this energetic activity with the mood-boosting benefits of music and you’ve already ticked two of the serotonin product boxes, meaning you’re onto a winner.

What’s more, dancing is something that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy, so regardless of whether you’re a salsa-pro or you’ve got two left feet, simply having a go is enough to burn some serious calories and get the serotonin flowing.

For a next-level dancing challenge, why not get on board with this season’s latest social media craze and challenge yourself to learn a TikTok dance routine?

You’ll benefit from group exercise

There’s nothing worse than doing a gruelling workout on your own; what makes Zumba so great is that you’ll be sweating with like-minded people who are hoping to get the same benefits you do. Plus, the social aspect will help you to stay accountable if you’ve got a track record of leaving your friends high and dry when it comes to trying out different fitness classes. 

Zumba routines: the basics

Like anything, you need to understand the foundations before you progress onto the more advanced steps. By all means, channel that inner J-Lo and follow along with these basic steps and dance moves that you can learn from home.

Basic merengue steps

Even though you feel like you’re having a party, with merengue you’re still getting that perfect box step. Because it’s so simple, you can add some extra things, such as moving your arms from side to side. 

Basic salsa steps

Similar to the merengue, this move is quick and needs some coordination. First, step one foot out at a time, tapping the floor each time. Then get your hips involved, by swaying them from side to side, depending on which foot you have out in front of you. Once you’ve mastered that, move your arms and shoulders in time with your feet at a right angle.

The reggaeton two-step bounce

Whatever attitude you feel, it’s the right attitude for reggaeton! Take two steps to the right and left, while punching your arms up and out in the same direction. 

Where can I find free Zumba classes online?

Barry’s Bootcamp, WW’s Stay Healthy Hub and Virgin Sport have all migrated online to host virtual sessions and races, and the same goes for dance platform Zumba.

To read more about online Zumba sessions, take a look at our article for a basic steps tutorial and more.

Try these virtual Zumba classes

Maximise your time at home by learning different dance styles to suit your new Zumba routine, with Zumba online. You don’t need any equipment, you can access the Zumba workout online from anywhere and you’ll be supporting local instructors. The best bit? You’ll have fun, improve your cardiovascular fitness and work up a sweat in no time.

It offers multiple classes for a range of abilities. There’s the standard Zumba which is perfect for anybody and everybody. A total workout, it combines all elements of fitness – cardio, muscle conditioning, balance and flexibility. It’ll be just like the Zumba DVD for beginners!

Zumba for seniors

Perfect for active older adults who are looking to feel the burn, Zumba GOLD strengthens and tones your legs and glutes.

Advanced routines

Ready for the next step? This one is great for people who want to get some serious (core) work done. 

Get the kids involved

Juggling full time work and home schooling? Zumba routines are a great way to involve them and they will love dancing around the room with you – not only is it fun, but you will also burn fat as you move. Kids from 7-11 years old get the chance to be active and jam out to their favourite music.

Dance moves to burn fat

“Dancing is a great way to exercise, as it’s a full-body workout and a lot of fun,” says Aimee Long, one of London’s leading personal trainers and founder of The Body Beautiful Method. “Lots of people lack the motivation to train in a gym setting and don’t get any enjoyment of that style of training, so dancing is great for balance and coordination, plus it could burn up to 200 calories every 30 minutes, depending on the style and intensity.”

Curtsy lunge with side leg raise

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips. Step your right leg back, so it crosses behind your left, keeping your hips square-on. Sink down and, as you rise up, kick out the back leg to the side. Do this for one minute on each leg.

One-second plié pulses

Stand with your legs out wide and your toes turned out to a 45-degree angle. Bend your knees and lower your torso, engaging your core and keeping your back straight. When you’ve gone as far down as you can, rise up slightly and pulse – feel the burn! Do this for one minute.

Plié criss cross jumps

From a standing position, jump into a wide-legged squat, landing with your toes pointed out. Then, jump back in, switching your legs mid-air in a criss-cross position. Jump back to the squat, and continue changing the forward leg as you complete the move. Repeat for one minute.

Front leg extension

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Engage your core and lift one leg, while keeping your toes pointed to the ceiling. Bend your knee and bring your foot back to a right angle. Extend the leg back out, then down to the floor. Do this for 20 reps each leg, and repeat three times.

The best Zumba wear

Motivation? Check. Space to move? Check. You’re almost set. Now you just need some kit to get you going. Ever wondered what the best trainers for Zumba are? All is revealed with our top picks!

The best Zumba t-shirt

In order to take part in a Zumba class, you’ll need loose clothing so you’re free to move your body without feeling restricted by a tight top. The Alberta Crop T-shirt from Ellesse Sport is perfect, plus it’ll add a pop of colour to your class!

Zumba leggings

The perfect workout leggings need to be squat-proof and comfortable. Enter the Premium Printed Impact Run Tight from New Balance. Although designed for running, the fit and quality will be just what you need for your first class.

The perfect dance shoes

This just in: PUMA has released its ultra-cushioned LQDCELL and ProFoam midsole, a TPU heel piece for extra stability and a high-grip outsole with zoned rubber traction pods, all to be found in their LVL-UP XT Women’s Training Shoes. So suffice to say, you won’t be slipping all over the dancefloor!

Want to take it to the next step? Here’s all you need to know about how to become a Zumba instructor

Meet the writer
Daniella Gray
Editorial assistant

Being able to write about everything that's important to me (exercising for mental wellbeing and delicious food, of course) to help people meet their health goals is pretty special. Before emails, I'm usually in the front-room with a dumbbell and on weekends, there's nothing better than the Kent countryside for a leisurely stroll.

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