Zumba is to exercise what a smoothie blender is to kids that don’t like vegetables. Often described as a fun “exercise in disguise,” Zumba uses a combination of dance and aerobic exercise to create a fun and welcoming group workout. Although the loud and energetic music and dance is often compared to a party or a nightclub, Zumba allows for individuals to enjoy their time while reaping the benefits of a full body workout.

The fitness program’s choreography and fast paced music is mainly inspired by various Latin American dances such as salsa and merengue, but can also take influence from hip-hop, Bollywood, pop, African, and Middle Eastern dances. Choreography from any of the dances is simplified, making it easier for class members to follow the instructor, rather than learning a routine beforehand. This way, the focus shifts from learning a routine to continuous movement.

Part of the philosophy that makes Zumba unique is its inclusivity to anyone and everyone. Several variations of Zumba exist to suit a variety of fitness levels and goals, as well as individuals with physical disabilities. Aside from traditional Zumba, Zumba GOLD is suited towards beginners and older adults that are unable to run or do more intense workouts. Classes can also be geared towards kids or can take place in a swimming pool. Individuals of both beginner and advanced fitness levels can also choose to take classes that focus on toning and sculpting muscles, which help to increase muscular strength and endurance. A Zumba Step class incorporates aspects of step aerobics, which increases cardio and calorie burning while defining and sculpting the core and legs.

Traditional Zumba classes help to increase aerobic capacity and endurance. A 2016 study by Cugusi et al. found that participants in a 12-week Zumba program had a decreased heart rate and systolic blood pressure when the intensity of a workout increased, indicating an increase in endurance.

Songs in a Zumba playlist alternate between high and low intensity, making it an interval workout that burns a significant number of calories in less time than a non-interval workout. The number of calories burned may range from 400-to-1,000 for an hour-long class. Exercises are modified with variations based on the intensity of a workout and the participant’s age, height, and weight. Researchers in a 2012 study found that a 39-minute class burned an average of 9.5 calories per minute which they compared to “moderately intense exercises like step aerobics or cardio kickboxing.”

With its numerous physical benefits, Zumba also positively affects an individual’s mental health. Participants in an eight-week Zumba study showed improvements in their quality-of-life score by nine per cent, as well as their self-esteem score, which increased by 16 per cent. Zumba is also offered in group class—their focus on inclusivity allow for individuals to feel a sense of community.

While Zumba is an effective workout for any fitness level and age, it is particularly effective for those that have a difficult time incorporating physical activity into their lives. Many people view going to the gym as a chore and tend to avoid the physical exercise crucial to good health. In comparison, one study on Zumba found that most of the participants continued to attend their classes even after the study had ended.

Zumba classes offer a welcoming environment where individuals simply follow their instructors lead and focus on having fun, while overlooking the lunges or squats that are being incorporated into their routine.