Zumba Fitness instructors typically see the same eager class participants week after week, who almost melt before their eyes as the pounds disappear, based on an activity that burns an estimated 300 to 800 calories per hour. And unlike the sweating cyclists in a stationary cycling class, the serious lifters by the dumbbell rack and the focused treadmillers glued to a heart-rate display, smiles wreath the faces of the class’s dancers. For them, weight loss may have been their primary goal, but it has evolved into a happy byproduct of the exhilaration of boogieing to world-beat music.
Instructors have complete freedom to choose the playlists for their classes, usually a mix of songs from DVDs sent to them as part of the Zumba Instructor Network as well as their own favorites and discoveries. Instructors perform high-intensity dances, with a mix of cumbia, merengue, reggaeton and other Latin steps for an experienced class, and simpler versions for a class of mostly new students. Songs and playlists tend to follow principles of interval training, interspersing frenetic lunges, steps and arm motions, with brief interludes of easier movements so you can catch your breath.
Adelicia Villagaray, a licensed Zumba Fitness instructor in Baltimore, Maryland, says you can wear a heart-rate monitor to get a precise idea of your calorie burn during Zumba. An alternative, lower-tech method appears in Zumba Fitness’s “Total-Body Transformation Guide,” a booklet that comes with its Total-Body Transformation DVD set. You can monitor your personal rate of perceived exertion by using the “talk test.” During the class warm-up and cooldown, exercise at a level that you can maintain with little effort. During the main part of the class, push yourself to where you can maintain the exertion level with significant effort and conversing is difficult. With the Total Transformation DVDs, you can calibrate the intensity to your fitness level by pausing the provided 45-minute cardio workout DVD to catch your breath.
Zumba Fitness instructors typically recommend two to five classes a week to maximize weight loss. Villagaray advises Zumba Fitness five times a week for anyone who wants to lose weight quickly, with two rest days as part of the schedule. Dana Cala, also an instructor in Baltimore, hears of a typical weight loss of 2 to 3 pounds per week from participants who follow her to three of her hyperkinetic classes a week or more. One class member lost 35 pounds in six months, she notes.
Vicky Asher, a licensed Zumba Fitness instructor in Timonium, Maryland, says that “you can absolutely do Zumba Fitness every day, because it’s a cardio workout, like biking or swimming.” If you are following an intensive schedule, take care of your knees and your hips, she advises, by limiting your jumping and lunge moves in the early stages of weight loss. Keep one foot on the ground, she advises, instead of leaping with both feet, to reduce impact on the joints.