Zumba these days is among the rather popular fitness programs out there, incorporating dance and martial arts moves. But does it live up to the hype?
The Wheel Of Fitness
Did you ever read those dreadful Wheel of Time novels by Robert Jordan, that at some point evolved into the most tiresome (and misogynistic) fantasy series this side of reading a phone book? Each and every one of them started with the following paragraph:
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.
Which is an apt description of fitness trends. Wait long enough, and you can sell the same thing all over again, given humanity’s collective memory apparently has a best before date that doesn’t go much further than a decade.
When I first laid eyes on a Zumba infomercial (and who can escape them?), I had a deja vu. I saw a man on my TV screen, yelling at me to get moving. But he didn’t want me to do Zumba, he called it “Tae Bo.” Then my vision muddled further, the man was still yelling at me, but wanted me to do moves that suspiciously looked like high-low aerobics, circa 1986. Minus the leg warmers.
Ah, yeah, what a bit of clever rebranding will do for you: take a charismatic personality, use South American music, don’t say it’s “exercise” but a “party” and then go and call it “Zumba.”
Does It Burn 500 – 1,000 Kcal?
Nah, you can’t really fault people for some good marketing, can you? But you can fault them for some ludicrous marketing statements.
First of all, in a number of Zumba Fitness infomercials you hear that each session burns 500 to 1,000 kcal. Take that with some serious grains of salt. Light jogging for sixty minutes clocks in at around 550 kcal, and the intensity of the average Zumba session is very likely not higher than that. If you are still able to sing along while you do your Zumba workout, you are far, far off from even the lower end of their estimate.
Second, Zumba claims that if you use some so-called “toning sticks” you can “sculpt” and “tone” your arms, abs and thighs. As we’ve explained right on this site before, toning requires lowering your body fat percentage and working with real weights. The toning sticks recommended by Zumba instructors weigh 1 -3 lbs and only for the most unfit trainees will have any effect on their muscles.
Does that mean Zumba is worthless? No, if Zumba is what gets you off your fanny and into exercise, go for it. Some people like spinning, some like running, some like to go to classes and dance and call it “Zumba.” But to really get something out of each, including Zumba, don’t believe the “it’s all fun” hype and do push it. As the old saying goes: if you still look good at the end of your workout, you didn’t work out.
Yet even then there may come a point where Zumba has done all it can for you, and then you may want to look into other options. Don’t have your horizon limited to just Zumba, also look at good ole’ Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo, spinning and others. Especially consider some real strength training, because those funny little workout sticks won’t do the job.
Picture courtesy of Roanoke College.