Zumba is a form of aerobic dance exercise similar to Jazzercise; its distinctive characteristic is its use of Latin American music and dance rhythms to create a party-like atmosphere in class sessions. There are two versions about the origin of the program's name: one version states that Zumba comes from a Colombian slang word meaning “to buzz like a bee” or “fast-moving” ; the second version is that it was chosen arbitrarily as a brand name with a Latin American flavor.


Zumba appeals to people's wish to enjoy themselves while exercising as well as lose weight and improve their overall fitness, flexibility, and endurance. The program's official slogan is “Ditch the Workout, Join the Party!” Some forms of Zumba involve resistance training intended to build strength while the more basic forms are lower impact and usually slower paced. Because there are a number of different types of Zumba classes aimed at different age groups and levels of fitness, people's motivations for participating vary.


According to the Zumba website, as of November 2016, there were 15 million people participating in Zumba classes at 200,000 locations in 180 different countries around the world. It is likely that most of these participants are young or middle-aged adults, although Zumba has also introduced special programs for children and seniors.

In the United States, Zumba appears to have a special appeal for Hispanics, although there are no precise statistics about ethnic or racial groups represented in most Zumba classes. Although classes are open to men and women, most Zumba instructors in North America are women, as are the majority of class participants.


Zumba is a form of aerobic fitness exercise based on Latin American dance rhythms. Participants are taught some basic easy-to-learn movements; they do not have to learn complicated balance techniques or body poses as in yoga. The simplicity of the movements is part of the program's appeal. In addition, participants do not need a partner to learn or perform the basic dance steps.

Another feature of Zumba classes that appeals to many people is that the dance movements do not have to be followed rigidly by all the members of the class; people who find some movements challenging can substitute lower-impact alternatives that they find more comfortable. Experienced Zumba instructors usually demonstrate these lower-intensity alternatives for older adults or those who don't exercise regularly.

Zumba classes

Zumba classes are offered in a wide variety of locations across the United States and Canada. Most are held in dance studios or fitness centers, although classes are also offered in community centers, senior centers, and college physical education departments. The average fee per class is $10–$15, although a few instructors charge as little as $5 per class.

A Zumba instructor in Lugano, Switzerland, leads his class in a fun dance, November 2013. Zumba is a form of aerobic dance exercise that originated in Colombia in the late 1990s.

A Zumba instructor in Lugano, Switzerland, leads his class in a fun dance, November 2013. Zumba is a form of aerobic dance exercise that originated in Colombia in the late 1990s. The term comes from Colombian slang meaning “to buzz like a bee.”

Zumba Fitness markets a line of clothing called Zumbawear, which includes caps and headbands as well as crop tops, T-shirts, muscle shirts, capri pants, cargo pants, and shoes. The company even offers longlasting lipstick, eye makeup, and nail polish.

As Zumba grew in popularity, the number of different types of Zumba classes grew too, and the program added classes that offer nutritional advice as well as exercise. As of November 2016, the Zumba Fitness website listed no fewer than 13 specialized Zumba classes:

Practicing at home

People who live at a distance from a town or city with Zumba classes or who simply want to work out by themselves can still participate in Zumba. There is an option to order CDs or DVDs starting at a reasonable price of $10. There are specialized CDs and DVDs for Zumba Kids and Zumbini, as well as different styles of music (including country/Western) for adults practicing Zumba at home.

In addition to the materials for sale on the Zumba Fitness website, people who want to practice at home or simply learn more about Zumba before investing in classes or workout gear can watch Zumba videos without charge on YouTube. As of 2017, there were several videos between 40 and 50 minutes long that include general introductions to Zumba, as well as instructors demonstrating the various dance moves.

People considering Zumba workouts at home should take all the precautions described below before starting to practice the dance moves. It is particularly important to check with one's physician first and to make certain to wear appropriate dance shoes and work out on a wooden floor (rather than concrete or carpet).

Zumba instructors

Zumba instructors are trained in various workshops offered in the United States, Canada, and other countries. Zumba requires prospective instructors to be 18 years of age or older (16- and 17-year-olds can attend a workshop with a letter of permission from their parent(s) and signing a liability form). The instructors do not need to have taken a Zumba class themselves, although previous experience with Zumba or with teaching other group exercise classes is recommended. Prospective Zumba instructors need only complete an eight-hour workshop. Instructors must renew their Zumba certification annually, either by attending another workshop or by preparing to teach one of the more specialized Zumba fitness routines. The average cost to the instructor of attending a Zumba workshop was about $290–$315 (as of 2017), in addition to transportation costs.

Although Zumba encourages instructors to acquire a general group exercise certification either from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) or the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) on the grounds that many fitness centers and gyms require all personnel to have such certification, ACE or AFAA credentials are not needed to become a Zumba instructor in the United States. Zumba instructors in Europe, Asia, or Australia, however, should check with their local government, as some countries require fitness instructors to have a general group exercise certificate.


Zumba originated in Cali, Colombia, in the late 1990s with the dance and fitness instructor Alberto (Beto) Pérez. On his way to teaching an aerobics class one day, he realized he had forgotten his usual music tapes. He improvised by playing salsa and meringue music recorded by various popular bands. The class enjoyed the dance music so much that they did not want to go back to the rigid aerobics tapes.

Pérez moved to Miami, Florida, in 1999 and began teaching his new combination of dance and resistance training there. In 2001, he was approached by entrepreneurs Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion to create a worldwide fitness company based on his new approach to exercise. In 2002, the company began to advertise, resulting in wide demand for Zumba classes across the United States. The need for a large number of new instructors led the company to develop its training workshops. Zumba expanded into the Hispanic market in the United States in 2003 and 2004 and went worldwide in 2007. Since 2004, it has offered CDs and DVDs for people to use at home.

After opening classes in Asia, Europe, and Australia in 2007, Zumba continued to expand into Latin America and Africa. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of different types of Zumba classes grew also; by 2017 there were 13 different types of classes.

Aerobic fitness—
A measure of the amount of oxygen delivered to muscle tissue to keep it working. Any type of exercise that raises the heart rate and keeps it up for a period of time improves aerobic fitness.
A style of Latin American music and dance with a two-step beat.
A form of urban music that developed in Panama and blends reggae from the West Indies with musical influences derived from salsa, cumbia, and merengue.
Circuit training—
A form of high-intensity body conditioning or resistance training involving a set of prescribed exercises. The term refers to one completion of all the prescribed exercises for a section of the body (upper body, lower body, core and trunk, or total body). Aftercompleting one circuit, the person begins with the first exercise in the set for the next circuit.
Resistance training—
A form of strength training that uses some form of physical resistance to muscular contraction in order to build up muscular strength.
A type of folk dance that developed along the Caribbean coast of Colombia.
A type of Latin American music and dance that originated in Cuba and became popular in the 1960s among Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants in New York City.
A half-moon-shaped disc of cartilage in the knee joint that provides stability to the knee when the joint is stressed or twisted. The meniscus spreads out the weight of the body above the knee and reduces friction in the joint during motion.
Step aerobics—
A form of aerobic exercise intended to strengthen the knee by stepping up and down on a plastic step or similar platform.


People should always check with their primary care physician before beginning any exercise program, including an aerobic program such as Zumba. Children and seniors should ask about the special Zumba classes available for their age groups. Children should be at least 4 years old to participate in a Zumba Junior class but may be 3 years or younger to participate in a Zumbini class with their adult caregiver. Pregnant women should be aware that the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy affect their joints and muscles, and they should substitute lower-intensity movements in order not to lose their balance.

People who have arthritis, a history of athletic injuries, or other disorders affecting the knee joint should check with their doctor before taking a Zumba class, as the dance routines involve frequent pivoting on the knee joint. Others who should consult their doctor include those with osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart or kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, emphysema, or herniated spinal disks.

Older adults or people unfamiliar with Latin dance styles should look for a beginners' class or a Zumba preparatory session.

Precautions related to specific facilities hosting Zumba classes include the following:


Preparation for a Zumba class includes the following:


Participants in a Zumba class should allow for a cool-down period after class, including gentle muscle stretching. Many Zumba instructors schedule a few songs with slower tempos in the final part of the class to help participants cool down. Otherwise, no particular aftercare is needed other than showering and changing clothes.



The main risk from a Zumba workout is damage to the menisci in the knee joint (assuming the person is otherwise fit and has no chronic cardiovascular or respiratory disorders). Participants are advised to wear shoes without a flat base to minimize stress on the knee joint; shoes without grips on the soles combined with good arch support are best. Zumba participants should avoid running shoes, which are designed for the forward motion of the foot rather than pivoting.

Other types of injuries that have been reported from Zumba classes are ankle sprains, heel spurs, shin splints, bursitis of the hip, and strained muscles in the lower back. These types of injuries are most likely to occur in overweight or out-of-shape adults attempting the squats, lunges, and jumping movements that are included in a Zumba workout.


Zumba appears to have long-lasting appeal. Some participants report losing considerable amounts of weight, and others maintain that the upbeat music and lively rhythm of the movements are a form of emotional as well as physical therapy. Some participants also like Zumba classes for the ease of social interaction, pointing out that it is possible to make new friends in a Zumba class.

Some articles in medical journals report that Zumba is indeed beneficial for adults in good general health, leading to lower body fat, increased energy, improved psychological well-being, greater endurance, and a higher level of aerobic fitness. Participants can burn as much as 360 calories per hour in a Zumba class. According to one study of older adults, the risk of injury with Zumba is low, provided individuals are working with a qualified instructor. Instructors who teach a large number of classes per week are at slightly higher risk of injury.

Research and general acceptance

The rapid expansion of Zumba from North America into Europe, Asia, and other continents resulted in more attention from specialists in sports medicine and other researchers. Between 2012 and 2016, about two dozen articles on Zumba appeared in medical journals, with studies carried out in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, and the United States. Most of these studies involved female subjects ranging from university undergraduates to older adults.

Caregiver concerns

Caregivers need to make sure that their charges are healthy enough for aerobic exercise; do not have any major cardiovascular, respiratory, or musculoskeletal disorders; and are enrolled in the appropriate Zumba class for their age.



Adams, Michelle Medlock. Zumba Fitness. Hockessin: Mitchell Lane, 2015.

Pérez, Beto, and Maggie Greenwood-Robinson. Zumba: Ditch the Workout, Join the Party: The Zumba Weight Loss Program. New York: Wellness Central, 2009.


Dalleck, L. C., et al. “Zumba Gold®: Are The Physiological Responses Sufficient to Improve Fitness in Middle-Age to Older Adults?” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 14 (August 11, 2015): 689–90.

Delextrat, A. A., et al. “An 8-Week Exercise Intervention Based on Zumba Improves Aerobic Fitness and Psychological Well-Being in Healthy Women.” Journal of Physical Activity and Health 13 (February 2016): 131–39.

Donath, L., et al. “The Effects of Zumba Training on Cardiovascular and Neuromuscular Function in Female College Students.” European Journal of Sport Science 14 (June 2014): 569–77.

Vendramin, B., et al. “Health Benefits of Zumba Fitness Training: A Systematic Review.” PM and R: The Journal of Injury, Function, and Rehabilitation. Published electronically June 16, 2016. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2016.06.010.


American Council on Exercise. “Zumba Fitness: Sure It's Fun But Is It Effective?” https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/2813/zumba-fitness-sure-it-sfun-but-is-it-effective/ (accessed November 12, 2016).

Consumer Reports. “10 Ways to Avoid Zumba Injuries.” http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/07/10-ways-to-avoid-zumba-injuries/index.htm (accessed November 12, 2016).

WebMD. “Zumba.” http://www.webmd.com/fitnessexercise/a-z/zumba-workouts (accessed November 12, 2016).

Weight Watchers. “The Body Benefits of Zumba.” http://www.weightwatchers.com/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=216031 (accessed November 12, 2016).

Zumba Fitness, LLC. https://www.zumba.com/en-US (accessed November 12, 2016).


Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), 1750 E. Northrop Boulevard, Suite 200, Chandler, AZ, 85286-1744, (800) 446-2322, http://www.afaa.com .

American Council on Exercise (ACE), 4851 Paramount Drive, San Diego, CA, 92123, (858) 576-6500, (888) 825-3636, Ext. 782, Fax: (858) 576-6564, https://www.acefitness.org/default.aspx .

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), 1750 East Northrop Boulevard, No. 200, Chandler, AZ, 85286, (602) 383-1200, (800) 460-6276, Fax: (480) 656-3276, nasmcares@nasm.org, https://www.nasm.org .

Rebecca J. Frey, PhD

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.