Working out doesn't have to feel like "work." Rather than plodding along on a treadmill for hours, you can dance to energizing music in easy-to-learn choreographed classes with upbeat instructors. You may not even realize you're exercising.
But could something so fun be effective for burning belly fat? A 2012 study conducted by the American Council on Exercise says yes, with results showing Zumba to be even more effective than other popular fitness classes.
How to Burn Belly Fat
Belly fat is stored fat. Your body stores fat when you consume more calories than needed to fuel your physiological functions, such as breathing and digestion, your daily activities of living and your exercise activities.
To burn belly fat, you need to create a calorie deficit, or take in fewer calories than you burn each day. You can do this by cutting calories from your diet and exercising more to burn calories. When you maintain that calorie deficit for a period of time, you'll begin to lose weight.
You can't spot-reduce, however. You can't target just your belly for losing fat. You have to lose overall body fat, some of which will come from your belly.
Read more: Should Men Do Zumba?
Calories Burned Doing Zumba
The 2012 ACE study followed 19 healthy females between the ages of 18 and 22 as they participated in a Zumba class wearing a heart monitor. On average, the women burned 9.5 calories per minute. That's more than the calories-per-minute burned in previous testing of advanced Pilates classes, power yoga, step aerobics and cardio kickboxing.
The calories you will burn in a Zumba class depend on a lot of factors, including your body weight, age, gender, the intensity with which you move, the difficulty of the class and more. You can wear a fitness tracker to monitor your calories burned so you can be more precise about creating your calorie deficit.
Best for Belly Fat
Zumba workouts alternate periods of high-intensity exercise with periods of lower intensity activity — a method called interval training. Interval training has many benefits, including improved cardiovascular fitness, lowered cholesterol and improved insulin sensitivity, which is the way your body uses glucose to make energy.
Compared to steady-state, moderate-paced exercise, in which your heart rate stays fairly even throughout your workout — for example, riding a stationary bike — interval training is better at burning total body fat. In addition, interval training has been shown to specifically target belly fat stores for oxidation in a way that steady-state cardio can't, according to a 2011 research review in Journal of Obesity.
Recipe For Success
Zumba is a fun and effective way to burn belly fat, as long as you do it regularly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting 2.5 to 5 hours, depending on intensity, or more of cardiovascular exercise each week for the most health and fat loss benefits. Therefore, you should take at least three Zumba classes each week.
Working with your doctor or a nutritionist can help you create a plan for burning belly fat that takes into account your specific calorie needs and how many calories you need to burn each day. With that information in hand, you can decide how much Zumba you need to do each week to lose your belly fat.
Read more: Zumba Workout Benefits