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10 Ways to Burn More Calories in Zumba Class

Updated on May 29, 2017
Noa Keshet profile image

Noa is dancing enthusiast, a Zumba instructor, a mom and a PhD in Bioinformatics.

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Zumba's slogan is “Ditch the workout, join the party”. A Zumba class is great dance-based aerobic workout that can promote coordination and cardiovascular endurance and help gain muscle tone. There is even evidence of improved cognition from memorizing all those dance choreographies. The social media is full of success stories; people are getting fitter, toned and losing weight with Zumba.

How many calories can be burned in a Zumba class? Some Zumba enthusiasts claim that 600-1000 calories can be burned in a single high-intensity one-hour session, while a more realistic estimate is only 350-650 calories per hour. The exact caloric expenditure depends on a number of different variables, including exact weight, muscle content, fitness level and more.

Regardless of the precise number, the important thing to remember is that you are very much in control of your results. Look around you the next time you finish a Zumba lesson: some people look like they just finished a leisurely stroll in the park, while others are breathing hard, drenched in sweat and still asking for more.

Perhaps you have been dancing Zumba multiple times a week over several months without getting the results you see in others? You keep coming back because you enjoy dancing, but would love to see faster weight loss? Here are 10 tips to help you increase the intensity of your workout and start seeing results:

1. Do the work:

You can see it in any Zumba class; some people are just not focused – going through the motions with low energy, doing only low-intensity beginners steps, taking long water breaks, talking with a friend, etc. There is an appropriate quote from Michael Jordan “I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come. I don’t do things half-heartedly. Because I know if I do, then I can expect half-hearted results.”

2. "Don't know a move? Just shake it 'til you make it"

You are not in Zumba class to stand and look bewildered. Not sure about the exact steps? Do something, at least walk in place of move from side to side. No one is looking at you or judging you, the others are busy having fun and doing their own variations of the dance routine.

Be in the moment, feel the music, let go and just dance. Zumba is about having fun and not about precision. If you are self-conscious and stiff you will probably be moving in small, hesitant steps, causing you to burn fewer calories. Everybody makes mistakes in Zumba class, including the teacher; the people having fun and dancing energetically (while burning a tone of calories) are those who just don't care and shake the blunders off with a smile and a shimmy.

For a beginner-friendly, playful routine that will have you dancing with a smile on your face try:

3. Don't forget to move your arms:

Perhaps you were told in your first class by a helpful instructor "just concentrate on the legs". To burn more calories you need to advance to moving your entire body energetically. To feel the benefit you can try doing a simple merengue step with your arms loosely hanging next to your hips, than compare it to doing the same step with your arms engaged and fully extended at shoulder height. Now try lifting your hands above your head while dancing, and soon you'll start to feel the burn in your arms' muscles.

Check out this video for a more in-depth explanation on how to make the most of your hand gestures in aerobic dancing:

4. Do the high-impact version of the moves

Zumba class is essentially an interval workout, alternating between high- and low-intensity dance moves. High-impact dance moves are those that get both your feet of the ground, like jumping, hopping or skipping. They elevate your heart rate, boost cardio endurance and send your body into fat-burning mode. According to http://calorielab.com/burned/?mo=se&gr=03&ti=dancing&q&wt=150&un=lb&kg=68 low-impact aerobic dancing burns 272 per hour, while high-impact dancing burns 408. Clearly it pays to try the high-impact version.

Most instructors provide several alternatives within a routine, encouraging people to choose the level of intensity that’s right for their body. To burn the most calories you need to be doing the advanced, high-energy high-impact version. If your knees are opposed to jumps, at least perform the low-impact variation as energetically as you can.

5. Make the most of the toning moves:

Zumba is not only a great aerobic workout, many choreographies include plenty of shaping and toning steps, like squats, lounges and even dropping to the floor for a pushup. Large compound movements, like squats, can work the entire lower body, specifically the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and even calves. Getting stronger muscles helps you to burn calories because it increases your metabolism and burns stored body fat all day long.

Want to put even greater emphasis on getting stronger and shaped? Zumba Toning is one of Zumba's spinoffs that keeps the dancing essence while focusing on strength training the arms, abs and thighs. Try the following video to get a taste:

6. Knowing the moves gets you a better workout

Once you are familiar with a dance routine and gained some confidence you can start to up the intensity; when you know a jump is coming, jump high! Shake your booty hard, really lift those knees and stretch your hands high above your head. Use your entire body, shake and shimmy with vigor, and perform the routine with genuine purpose and flair.

7. Use a heart rate monitor:

Get motivated to dance harder by the numbers on your monitor. A heart rate monitor can help you stay focused on dancing hard throughout the class, instead of overestimating your efforts.

8. Try different instructors:

A good chemistry with the instructor is important to enjoy the class, work harder and get better results. Do you want a Zumba instructor that uses a microphone to verbally cue the correct move (e.g., shouting, "Left! Right! Repeat!"), or would you rather have visual cues? Do you want the playlist to stay pretty constant, so that you can master the routines, or would you rather have a new song every week?

One of my pet peeves is when the instructor stops between songs, to go over the choreography step by step. I prefer to pick up the routine with practice rather than getting frustrated by all the stopping and reviews. I like the class to be non-stop music, no water breaks or choreography breakdowns.

9. Try a different Class

The overall energy of the class is also essential to your success. If the room is too crowded, and you are annoyed by people trespassing on your personal space, you are definitely not getting a good workout. If your class is full of beginners the dance routines will likely be watered down versions with simple low-impact moves. Over-complicated choreographies, on the other hand, may cause you to focus on getting the steps right instead of dancing hard and burning calories.

10. Don’t let your body adjust

One challenge that comes with any workout program is the fact that your body can adjust. Being diligent with Zumba means you get more efficient at doing the dance moves, thus you may be burning fewer and fewer calories over time. To keep challenging your body you need to introduce some new elements to your Zumba workout (remember the tips about trying several instructors/classes).

So even if you love your regular Zumba class, you should consider keeping your body guessing with a different flavor of Zumba. You can try Step Zumba, a new take on the traditional step aerobics classes, where your legs' muscles are further challenged by stepping on an aerobic step bench. You can give it a try with a simple routine by Zumba step instructor Dovydas Veiverys:


How are you feeling during a Zumba class?

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    • Noa Keshet profile image
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      Noa Keshet 4 months ago from Israel

      Thanks, I'm really glad you found the tips helpful!

    • Alyssa Nichol profile image

      Alyssa 4 months ago from Ohio

      Great tips! Zumba is a wonderful workout! Every time I do Zumba, it leaves me feeling happy, energetic, and just amazing!