This intense, strenuous and even explosive Latin aerobic dance form can combine surprisingly well with pregnancy. Many Zumba dancers report a surge of energy to combat fatigue, and YouTube videos show women eight months pregnant instructing classes with vigor. The bottom line: Listen to your body. Don’t start Zumba during pregnancy unless you are already a reasonably fit dancer. Do continue with it if it feels good: Your baby may be bopping right along as the tiniest class member.
In the past, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended a heart rate of no more than 140 beats a minute for exercise during pregnancy. The college has revised this recommendation to exercising 30 minutes a day during pregnancy for most women without any specific heart rate limits; a broader guideline that keeps Zumba feasible. Your age, exercise intensity and the frequency of exercise prior to pregnancy will influence what you're safely capable of doing during pregnancy.
Get your health care provider’s approval for exercise such as Zumba during pregnancy, especially if you have a history of diabetes, high blood pressure or preterm labor. Know your limitations. Use your abdominal muscles to keep upright and to support your back. Tone down jumping and leaping in the last three months and do low-impact dancing during the last six to eight weeks. Not all women are able to continue dancing until delivery.
Strenuous dance exercise such as Zumba will be more of a struggle during pregnancy, as the amount of blood circulated by the heart increases to as much as 30 to 50 percent above normal, fitness expert Tracey Mallet writes on the BabyCenter website. The heart rate rises and the risk for muscle strain, tearing or other injury increases, since the same hormone that helps the uterus expand also weakens the body’s connective tissues.
Certified Zumba instructor Adelicia Villagaray of Baltimore, Maryland, describes a woman she taught who did Zumba throughout her pregnancy, performing modifications for the jumps and twists. “The baby knew she was going to Zumba, so as soon as 12 o’clock hit, it was completely still, due to the rocking motion,” she said. Although it was the woman’s first child, “the doctor said it was the fastest delivery he had ever done, maybe because her core muscles were so stable,” she said.
“Personal trainers say the best thing is to continue exercises but not to start a new exercise while you are pregnant,” Villagaray notes. “Try to do 30 minutes of dance exercise three to five times a week and do modifications” of the more strenuous routines, she suggests. Instructors can suggest modifying routines to avoid impact and twisting and to slow transitions. Mallet suggests keeping one foot on the floor at all times, marching instead of jumping, using fewer arm movements and avoiding quick turns.
- Joint SOGC/CSEP Clinical Practice Guideline: Exercise in Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period
- Adelicia Villagaray, certified Zumba instructor, Baltimore, Maryland
- BabyCenter: Is a Strenuous Dance Class Safe During Pregnancy?
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period