How Zumba Became the Hottest Fitness Craze Ever

by MyFitnessPal
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How Zumba Became the Hottest Fitness Craze Ever

Every week 14 million people meet in 185 countries to dance up a sweat in over 140,000 official Zumba Fitness locations. Add in the men and women sweating to the beats of Zumba Fitness DVDs (over 12 million have been sold) in their own living rooms and the numbers are even more staggering. There’s no question it’s popular, but just how did this Latin dance craze take over the fitness world?

In the mid 1990s, fitness instructor Beto Perez forgot his tape of aerobics music for a class he was teaching. He went to his car, grabbed his personal mix of salsa and merengue tunes, and improvised a session that combined Latin dance steps with basic aerobics moves. It was wildly successful, and Perez continued teaching his new fusion class in Colombia. Perez moved to Miami in 2001 where he teamed up with entrepreneurs Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion to create Zumba Fitness, and they began producing and marketing DVDs. The trio went on to establish the Zumba Academy to license instructors to teach classes, designed Zumbawear apparel, and compiled branded music mixes.

Today, Zumba Fitness has become a global lifestyle brand that, according to official company statements, “fuses fitness, entertainment and culture into an exhilarating dance-fitness sensation!” Incorporating easy choreography that seniors, kids, and every age group in between can follow, Zumba is just plain fun. Classes feel more like a party than a typical group exercise session, blending upbeat world rhythms with moves to create a total-body celebration.

Ready to join in the fitness fun? Here’s what you need to know.

Expect to dance… Zumba classes last 60 minutes and incorporate elements of merengue, salsa, cumbia, reggaeton, and hip-hop, as well as exotic rhythms set to high-energy Latin and international beats. Licensed instructors will lead you through a choreographed routine that repeats a series of movements. More like moving to music on a dance floor—swaying from side to side, moving in a circle, or stepping up and back, with added arm movements for flair, there’s no step counting in this non-stop session.

…And sweat! A relaxed warm-up of head and shoulder rolls to loosen the upper body and neck transitions into a total-body workout. Fitness standards like squats and plyometric jumps are sprinkled in among fancy footwork and sultry moves that will strengthen your ankles, calves, and hips, engage your core, and tighten and tone your thighs and butt muscles. You can expect to burn anywhere from 400 to 600 calories while jamming out to the latest Latin beats and hottest chart toppers, including Beyoncé and Lady Gaga.

It’s addictive! First-timers often find themselves struggling to keep up, but the fiesta atmosphere will leave you wanting more. Rest assured, the more often you show up the sooner you’ll feel like you’ve got the choreography down, and you can focus on having fun and torching calories at the same time. Locate a class near you to join the party!

Have you tried Zumba yet? What did you think? Tell us in the comments below!

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23 responses to “How Zumba Became the Hottest Fitness Craze Ever”

  1. Avatar Jill says:

    Zumba was one of the primary ways that I lost the 60 lbs in 9 months that I shed before becoming pregnant with my son. I’d wear a heart rate monitor which calculated my calorie burns at anywhere from 400 to 650 in the hour that we exercised (depending on the intensity of the routine). LOVED it. I was legitimately sad when I had to miss Friday night classes for a social outing instead!

    I have to lose some weight again now that my son is born, and I’m happily attending Zumba classes again as a way the shed the weight. I’m finding that with Zumba, weight lifting classes, and some running, I feel that my exercise routine is varied and interesting. I think a routine that is interesting to you is the best way to help yourself be successful. If you can’t wait to get to the gym, chances are good you’ll keep it up!

    My recommendation to a beginner is this: suck up the pride and make your way to the front of the class. You’ll have a better view of the instructor to see their steps, and you can better feed off of their energy to get an intense workout. Plus, if I’m not looking at other people, I’m not thinking about what they think of me. I’m actually *less* self-conscious at the front of the class. Be foolish and have fun!

    • Avatar Ther says:

      I agree about going to the front of the class. You can learn better. If you depend on others in the class, they may not be doing it right and you learn the wrong thing.

      But another thing that is important is to just enjoy. No one’s trying to see who is doing it better. I realise I do better because I don’t care what the others in the class think of what I do. I feel more freedom to let loose and enjoy the music.

  2. Avatar Ella says:

    When I hit rock bottom with my weight, Zumba was the first thing I tried and it really kicked my body into gear. The best part of Zumba is that when you’re starting out you can easily modify it to fit your fitness level. And when you get to the “maniac” level of fitness, you can still modify it and make it really challenging. I recommend it to anyone!

  3. Avatar Bobbi Daniel Lundquist says:

    Zumba was the beginning of my weight loss and return to fitness. I couldn’t do it at first without a “march in place” rest, but gradually it got easier. Then I noticed the weight was coming off. Now I teach Zumba to help others do what Zumba helped me do. Start with Zumba Gold or modify a regular class. You don’t have to know how to dance…just let the music move you. When your fitness level needs a kick, step up to Zumba Step…the next newest addition and an amazing lower body, ab and cardio workout! Try a class and see what it does for you…you’ll be amazed!

  4. Avatar Jessica Moreno says:

    I’ve always had trouble finding an exercise routine that I personally liked and could keep at it. I started taking salsa classes at the university I went in 2007 and salsa classes led to also learning merengue, bachata, and other latin dancing. A zumba class started being taught right after the latin dancing classes I was taking and I remember how curious I was but way too shy to try it. I finally ended up trying and I loved it. Since then, I have made it to all classes at the University as much as my schedule would allow and have currently part of a gym where I make sure I make those classes. I also love it when I hear about a Zumbathon in town because being able to Zumba for more than hour is definitely worth my time. 😀

  5. Avatar JoanFreedman says:

    I like the music, is exciting but the moves are too slow and boring.

  6. Avatar Peachysage says:

    I go to at to three zumba classes a week and have now started zumba step! Its such a fun way to exercise. The music and atmosphere in class is so much fun. I’m losing weight and toning up thanks to zumba. Xx

  7. Avatar Gillian Jenkins says:

    My is Gill and just over 4 years ago i weighed in at 23 stone 10 pounds , my daughter talked me into trying zumba which was a huge effort from my self i tried it could not do it but i fell in love with the music the dance and meet amzaing people there and fantasticteacher angela mills …my daughter was getting marrried on the 12 july 2011 by that time i had lost 6 stone and.dropped from a size.30 t0 18 and since then i have lost 14.5 stone along with other training i do ….zumba changed my life and my teacher is now one of my best friends and as a class we have a brillant social life too i niw weigh 65 kilo and my dress size is 10 ……

  8. Avatar Camilla says:

    Zumba was instrumental in helping lose over 100 lbs. over 3 yr. period from 2009-2012. It was the only exercise that I was consistent with because it was fun, and though I am a large woman I’ve always liked dancing. I didn’t need to have a friend to encourage or go with me because you just show up and you meet some of the most interesting instructors and friends along the way. I had some physical set backs, but was still able to get back into Zumba after breaking my foot. It’s bee a year now without Zumba due to a meniscus tear to my knee which occurred during Zumba. I elected not to have surgery and I’m almost 100% now! but my doctors tell me not to return to Zumba that it’s too jarring to the joints. They tell me to find some other exercise to do. I said no I will be back. I tried too soon a few months ago and had to sit back again. Working out at the gym has not been fun but had to workout. I’ve been walking to my Zumba DVD and adding in a few steps. I found I can still keep up, but modify some of the twists..I never did the jumps. I’m going back to Zumba, with some modifications on the moves because I don’t want to reinsure myself, but I want my Zumba back. It was my MoJo.

    • Avatar MaRia says:

      Can I suggest that you look into a Zumba Gold or an Aqua Zumba class. Zumba Gold would help you ease back into the routines and Aqua is done in the pool, so it would be less impact on your joints. You still get the great music and party, just less impact with both classes to ease your way back into your regular classes 😀

  9. Avatar Cindy says:

    I’ve been doing Zumba for about a year and a half now. I am officially addicted! I go three times a week and do not like to miss. My schedule is arranged around my Zumba classes. When I first started, I wasn’t losing any weight, which was why I wanted to take the class in the first place. But when I started using My Fitness Pal and watching my calorie intake, the weight started to fall off. I’ve lost 30 pounds since September and have never felt better. My instructor is awesome and makes the class so much fun. We have shimmy scarves we wear for our belly dancing songs, hula skirts for our Hawaiian songs, and many other “props” we use to keep the class fun and entertaining. I cannot say enough good things about it. And I totally agree with the comment that you need to be in the front of the class. When I first started I insisted on being in the back because I didn’t want anyone to make fun of my lack of coordination and dance moves. I quickly realized that I needed to be in front to see the instructor and now I have my spot in the front row and no one better dare try to take my spot! I highly recommend that if you haven’t tried a class to give it a try. You will soon find yourself addicted like me!

  10. Avatar Jessica Lyon says:

    A friend of mine suggested this as a way to make cardio more exciting. It worked! I’m down 147 pounds in 12 months and I definitely credit Zumba for part of it!

  11. Avatar ND says:

    I tried it, but felt the classes drag since the music is all so similar. I’ve also done Jazzercise which I believe offers more variety of music and dance styles – I also enjoy the weight training that comes at the end of a Jazzercise class – a total body workout! Not just pure cardio. Jazzercise helped me lose 150 pounds.

    • Avatar jazziegirl says:

      I agree 1000% about Jazzercise!! I am a Jazzercise Instructor and i have tried Zumba. There is absolutely no comparison! Jazzercise is truly a total body workout, with physiologically based moves to include cardio, endurance, flexibility, strength, all in one workout. The variety of music rocks, it incorporates different dance styles and moves, and class sizes allow for building friendships. Gals who try Jazzercise will never go back to Zumba!!

  12. Avatar Nana says:

    I’m, let’s say over 65, and I found a Zumba Gold class at my local Senior Center. I joined in September 2013 and love it. It’s not as fast and intense as regular Zumba but it sure makes us “oldies” sweat. Oh, and I’ve lost 30 lbs. so far!

  13. Avatar lovebug says:

    I have it for the Wii and it’s amazing (awesome). It’s the best thing to workout to. I really LOVE IT!!!!!

  14. Avatar Colleen Faler says:

    I love Zumba! The gym I attend has several classes a week, including Zumba Sentao (which is hella tough, but so much fun) and Zumba Toning (which I honestly, skip).

  15. Avatar Cfloyd says:

    My friend instructs Zumba and she is fantastic! It is in her blood to dance and to lead. She is great at cueing but also her facial expressions are inspiring as she mixed light and fun with hip and hot. 🙂 But she’s not easy.

  16. Avatar Adam says:

    It really depends on the instructor, some are great and have fitness backgrounds and hold the correct papers insurance etc. Check what qualifications your instructor has prior to attending a class. Zumba have no quality control and everybody passes the Zumba training course regalless if they are a compident teacher or not. But all in all if you get a good instuctor who gives a well balanced class this is a great workout

  17. […] on lots (and lots) of dates Try it all: Zumba, Crossfit, yoga, running, walking, Jazzercize, P90X, that new iPhone app you downloaded, Paleo, […]

  18. Avatar storysue50 says:

    zUUUUMMBAAA! I was an college athlete, but, over the years have stuck to what I knew and learned about training 30 years ago. Boy, with a personal trainer that was fabulous and a recommendation to take a class (which I never enjoyed)….I reluctantly decided to try Zumba…..I was hooked…I have the XBOX 360 version and I purchased the trademarked tapes from Amazon. I take one class a week at my gym and in the winter take 2 classes a week. Outside of Zumba I work out hard, playing competitive singles tennis, almost daily. I have not sweated so much since I was training for college volleyball in 100 degrees heat! I LOVE IT and hope they keep coming out with new stuff….

  19. Avatar Stephanie s says:

    I have detested cardio my entire life, but still participated. Almost three yrs. ago, I tried ZUMBA fitness. I thought that I was going to pass out. I purchased a light weight shoe and correct, comfortable work out gear, then anticipated the next class. It was challenging using both my arms and legs together constantly, but after a short time, it all became easier. ZUMBA has helped me keep off weight that I lost. I absolutely love the various routines and music. We also use hand weights for a routine or so. The energy level in the classes is amazing and I do see the same group of addictive individuals in the three classes per week, in which I participate. I cannot say enough good things about ZUMBA

    Once class is finished, I know that I have truly accomplished something, while having a blast doing so!

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