Dance has been used as a physical expression of emotions, celebration, ceremony, worship, and entertainment for centuries. The Oxford Dictionary defines dance as moving rhythmically to music, usually following a specific sequence of steps. Ballet, contemporary, tap, jazz, hip-hop, folk, and step dancing are popular forms of dance.
Research shows that dance as an exercise format, or dance fitness, not only combines cardiovascular benefits of movements set to music but also offers the social aspect of a group setting, which may promote longer-term adherence to exercise. 
Here we specifically explore Zumba Fitness®, a popular program worldwide that involves aerobic exercise using Latin-inspired dance themes and music. The choreography is less formal than in traditional dance classes and encourages the feel of a “dance party.”  Zumba has been found to boost intrinsic motivation, which is defined as engaging in an activity because of the innate pleasure it brings. 
Exercise of any type carries the risk of injury. Zumba requires a level of coordination to perform rhythmic Latin dance-inspired movements. It is usually fast-paced, including twisting motions at the hip, knee, and ankle. Proper body alignment can be harder to control when the music tempo is fast and routines move quickly. Jumps or hops can lead to lower back pain in less-conditioned participants. If a participant focuses too much on following the instructor and keeping up with their classmates rather than paying attention to their own physical limitations, injuries can occur.
As with other types of aerobic exercise, research has been published on Zumba-related injuries, with the most frequently injured sites being knees, ankles, and shoulders.  It appears that a higher frequency of weekly classes increases the risk of injuries more than age or exercise experience. This finding is consistent with another study that found that Zumba instructors were seven times more likely to suffer injury than class participants, likely due to their high total volume of moderate-to-vigorous weekly activity. 
Tips to prevent injury:
- Check with your doctor. Discuss if a dance fitness class like Zumba is safe with your medical conditions.
- Introduce yourself to the instructor. Inform the instructor if you are brand new to the format, if you have sensitive areas of the body, or are recovering from an injury. An experienced instructor will monitor you throughout the class and offer modifications for complex movements.
- Wear proper dance fitness shoes. Good arch support with a flexible sole supports the foot while allowing it to pivot across the floor using multidirectional movements. Most running shoes are not a good choice because they grip the floor and promote forward motion, whereas Zumba includes more lateral (side-to-side) movements. A simple walking or tennis shoe may be a good option to support commonly used movements.
- Choose a class that takes place in a fitness facility or dance studio. These locations are more likely to have proper flooring, such as hardwood floors with rubber underlay that support pivoting of the feet while helping to absorb shock. Zumba classes in a community center or church may use rooms with concrete or carpeted floors that can lead to twisted ankles and knee strain, regardless if wearing the proper shoes.
- Warm-up before class. Not all Zumba classes will provide an adequate warm-up session, so spend 10-15 minutes before class walking on a treadmill or marching in place to increase blood flow and oxygen to your muscles. This reduces stress on the body when you start dancing.
- Modify movements. If a movement looks too vigorous or extreme, don’t hesitate to substitute a different movement that is more comfortable. You may try marching or doing step-touches until the routine moves on to the next movement.
- If you are new, stand in the back. It is often less crowded and allows you to experience the class at your own pace, modify movements, and feel less pressure to keep up with everyone else.
Zumba and Health
Dance fitness has been ranked the second most popular leisure-time physical activity after walking among women ages 25 to 75 years, and an activity recommended in the Global Action Plan On Physical Activity 2018–2030 established by WHO.  There is research on Zumba to reduce cardiovascular risk, but many studies are limited by small sample sizes, shorter durations of 8-12 weeks, and lack of control groups. [7,8] The intensity of Zumba enters the moderate aerobic zone, but adding jumping and faster-paced music increases intensity. There appears to be a wide range in intensity levels of Zumba classes depending upon the choreography and enthusiasm of the instructor, which has likely contributed to variability in Zumba research. 
Cardiovascular fitness and body weight
- In an 8-week trial, previously inactive women ages 35-45 practiced Zumba three times a week for 60 minutes. They showed significant improvement in respiratory function and decreased body mass index and fat mass compared with the control group (no exercise).  Other small trials showed similar findings, as well as improvements in blood pressure. [10,11]
- Zumba has been shown to improve VO2 peak, the maximum amount of oxygen the body uses during exercise, and to increase strength in female participants up to age 63. [8,12,13]
- A 16-week study of 98 healthy women ages 25 to 50 years who were inactive at baseline were randomized to take either a one-hour Zumba class, the Zumba class followed by 20 extra minutes of strength training, or usual lifestyle (control group). Both exercise groups took place three days a week, and both groups showed decreased waist circumference, improvements in tests of balance and musculoskeletal fitness (sit-ups, handgrip strength), and increased aerobic fitness compared with the control group. 
- A systematic review of 11 studies on Zumba including participants from 18 to 65 years found modest benefits in reducing body weight, improving aerobic fitness, and increasing psychological and social benefits regarding quality of life. However limited evidence was found on improving muscle strength and flexibility. 
Cognition and mental health
- In 60 middle-aged women (mean age of 36) with fibromyalgia, Zumba improved motor function, memory, and reduced symptoms of depression after three months compared with a control group.  Other small studies looking at the effects of Zumba on fibromyalgia include reducing pain and improving physical functioning. 
- Other studies have found that participation in Zumba classes improved autonomy and quality of life, and increased a sense of purpose in life compared with controls. [13,17,18]
- The high-impact movements of Zumba have been theorized to stimulate bone, due to the force and stress produced during its practice.  A 12-week controlled trial of 55 previously inactive premenopausal women ages 30-50 found that participants in the Zumba group (40-minute classes three times a week) maintained their bone mineral density and also increased it at certain sites such as the hip and legs compared with a control group (no exercise) who showed decreased bone mineral density.
Zumba Gold® is an offshoot of Zumba that is adapted for older adults to be lower in intensity with movements that focus on balance, range of motion, and coordination. Research has been published on its safety, high rates of compliance by participants, and intrinsic motivation to exercise in clinical populations such as hemodialysis patients and those with Parkinson’s disease. [20,21]
Zumba Fitness is a dance-based aerobic exercise class that is popular, especially among women, of all ages and body sizes. It offers a range of benefits including improving aerobic fitness, body composition, and balance. Although the intensity of an average Zumba class is moderate to vigorous, modifications can be made to meet the specific needs of individuals. Zumba Gold is a lower-intensity format targeting older adults and those with increased physical limitations that has been found to be generally safe and to stimulate intrinsic motivation to exercise. The group setting of Zumba classes can provide socialization and additional mental health benefits. As with any exercise format, there is risk of injury so it is important to discuss the feasibility of Zumba with your doctor before beginning a program.
- Staying Active
- Walking for Exercise
- HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
- Yoga for Exercise
- Barranco-Ruiz Y, Ramírez-Vélez R, Martínez-Amat A, Villa-González E. Effect of two choreographed fitness group-workouts on the body composition, cardiovascular and metabolic health of sedentary female workers. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019 Dec;16(24):4986.
- Luettgen M, Foster C, Doberstein S, Mikat R, Porcari J. ZUMBA®: Is the “fitness-party” a good workout?. Journal of sports science & medicine. 2012 Jun;11(2):357.
- Krishnan S, Tokar TN, Boylan MM, Griffin K, Feng D, Mcmurry L, Esperat C, Cooper JA. Zumba® dance improves health in overweight/obese or type 2 diabetic women. American journal of health behavior. 2015 Jan 1;39(1):109-20.
- Inouye J, Nichols A, Maskarinec G, Tseng CW. A survey of musculoskeletal injuries associated with Zumba. Hawai’i Journal of Medicine & Public Health. 2013 Dec;72(12):433.
- Domene PA, Clarke ND, Delextrat A, Easton C. Injury surveillance of female adult Zumba® dancers. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 2017 Dec 1;57(12):1642-9.
- Barranco-Ruiz Y, Villa-González E. Health-related physical fitness benefits in sedentary women employees after an exercise intervention with Zumba Fitness®. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2020 Apr;17(8):2632.
- Cugusi L, Manca A, Bergamin M, Di Blasio A, Yeo TJ, Crisafulli A, Mercuro G. Zumba fitness and women’s cardiovascular health: a systematic review. Journal of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and prevention. 2019 May 1;39(3):153-60.
- Chavarrias M, Villafaina S, Lavín-Pérez AM, Carlos-Vivas J, Merellano-Navarro E, Pérez-Gómez J. Zumba®, fat mass and maximum oxygen consumption: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2021 Jan;18(1):105.
- Ljubojevic A, Jakovljevic V, Bijelic S, Sârbu I, Tohănean DI, Albină C, Alexe DI. The Effects of Zumba Fitness® on Respiratory Function and Body Composition Parameters: An Eight-Week Intervention in Healthy Inactive Women. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022 Dec 25;20(1):314.
- Domene PA, Moir HJ, Pummell E, Knox A, Easton C. The health-enhancing efficacy of Zumba® fitness: An 8-week randomised controlled study. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2016 Aug 2;34(15):1396-404.
- Cugusi L, Wilson B, Serpe R, Medda A, Deidda M, Gabba S, Satta G, Chiappori P, Mercuro G. Cardiovascular effects, body composition, quality of life and pain after a Zumba fitness program in Italian overweight women. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 2015 Feb 19;56(3):328-35.
- Barene S, Holtermann A, Oseland H, Brekke OL, Krustrup P. Effects on muscle strength, maximal jump height, flexibility and postural sway after soccer and Zumba exercise among female hospital employees: a 9-month randomised controlled trial. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2016 Oct 1;34(19):1849-58.
- Delextrat AA, Warner S, Graham S, Neupert E. An 8-week exercise intervention based on Zumba improves aerobic fitness and psychological well-being in healthy women. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 2016 Feb 1;13(2):131-9.
- Vendramin B, Bergamin M, Gobbo S, Cugusi L, Duregon F, Bullo V, Zaccaria M, Neunhaeuserer D, Ermolao A. Health benefits of Zumba fitness training: A systematic review. PM&R. 2016 Dec 1;8(12):1181-200.
- Norouzi E, Hosseini F, Vaezmosavi M, Gerber M, Pühse U, Brand S. Zumba dancing and aerobic exercise can improve working memory, motor function, and depressive symptoms in female patients with fibromyalgia. European journal of sport science. 2020 Aug 8;20(7):981-91.
- Júnior JC, de Almeida Silva HJ, da Silva JF, da Silva Cruz R, de Almeida Lins CA, de Souza MC. Zumba dancing can improve the pain and functional capacity in women with fibromyalgia. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies. 2018 Apr 1;22(2):455-9.
- Stonnington CM, Krell-Roesch J, Locke DE, Hentz JG, Dueck AC, Geda YE, Tariot PN, Caselli RJ. Impact of Zumba on cognition and quality of life is independent of APOE4 carrier status in cognitively unimpaired older women: A 6-month randomized controlled pilot study. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias®. 2020 Jan 20;35:1533317519868370.
- Barranco-Ruiz Y, Paz-Viteri S, Villa-González E. Dance fitness classes improve the health-related quality of life in sedentary women. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2020 Jun;17(11):3771.
- Ubago-Guisado E, Sánchez-Sánchez J, Vila-Maldonado S, Gallardo L. Effects of Zumba® and aquagym on bone mass in inactive middle-aged women. Medicina. 2019 Jan 21;55(1):23.
- Delextrat A, Bateman J, Esser P, Targen N, Dawes H. The potential benefits of Zumba Gold® in people with mild-to-moderate Parkinson’s: Feasibility and effects of dance styles and number of sessions. Complementary therapies in medicine. 2016 Aug 1;27:68-73.
- Bennett P, Corradini A, Ockerby C, Cossich T. Exercise during hemodialysis: the intradialytic zumba gold. Nephrology News Issues. 2012 Aug;26(9):31-2.
Last reviewed October 2023
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