According to the official Zumba website (, 12 million people from 110,000 locations in 125 countries participate in the Latin-inspired dance fitness classes. Despite this popularity, does Zumba really offer a solid workout?

To answer this question, researchers measured participant energy expenditure levels during a typical Zumba class. The study was funded by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Subjects were 19 apparently healthy female volunteers, all aged about 19, with previous Zumba experience. “Each subject performed an incremental, maximal treadmill test with measurement of heart rate (HR) and oxygen consumption (VO2),” the study authors explained. After this test, the subjects participated in a Zumba session—average length, 39 minutes—led by an ACE-certified instructor; they each wore a radiotelemetric heart rate monitor. The result: “The average HR was 154 ± 14 beats per minute, which corresponded to 79 ± 7% of HRmax. . . . The average estimated VO2 was 66 ± 10.5% of VO2max.”

And what about energy expenditure? The data showed that participants burned an average of 369 ± 108 calories per class. “According to accepted fitness industry guidelines, individuals should exercise [at] 64%–94% of HRmax or 40%–85% of VO2max to improve cardiovascular fitness,” the researchers added. “All of the subjects who participated in the Zumba sessions fell within these guidelines.” Each individual also met the American College of Sports Medicine’s guidelines on expending at least 300 calories per workout for weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. For all the details, see the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2012; 11, 357–58). The final assessment: “[R]egular participation in Zumba should positively affect body composition.”