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If you enjoy Latin dance styles such as salsa and flamenco, Zumba may be your ideal workout choice. The activity pairs lively dance steps with serious cardiovascular exercise, and burns significant calories to help you lose weight. Because you’re most likely to stick to activities that you enjoy, Zumba may help you burn more calories in the months and years to come, helping you maintain a slim physique for life. Talk to your doctor before starting Zumba or any other workout plan.

Calories During Zumba

The American Council on Exercise studied college-age women as they performed various Zumba workouts, all taught by the same instructor. Classes ranged from 32 to 52 minutes in duration, and the average participant burned about 9.5 calories per minute, or 369 calories per 38-minute session. For comparison, a 140-pound person burns about the same amount jogging at 5.3 miles per hour.

Post-Exercise Burning

Not only is the number of calories burned during Zumba comparable to that of other moderate-to-vigorous cardiovascular exercise, but ACE researchers found that heart-rate patterns during Zumba mimicked interval training, alternating between periods of high and low intensity. Lead researcher Mary Luettgen, M.S., noted that this type of workout burns more calories compared to steady-state cardio exercise. Although ACE did not measure post-workout calorie burning, one study of healthy young men presented at the Integrative Biology of Exercise VI meeting in 2012 found that participants who performed intervals on stationary bikes burned 200 more calories than usual over the following 24 hours.

Calories and Weight

To gauge how effective Zumba is for weight management, it’s important to understand how calories relate to body fat. One pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories; therefore, burning that many more calories than you eat will make you lose 1 pound of weight. You may lose that in just under 10 Zumba sessions if you eat just enough for your usual weight maintenance. However, you’ll lose weight much more quickly by reducing caloric intake — which means choosing smaller portion sizes and eating whole, unprocessed fare rather than fast food or packaged snacks.

Zumba Frequency

The more often you do Zumba, the more calories you’ll ultimately burn. For effective weight management, perform Zumba or other vigorous cardio exercise, such as jogging or swimming laps, 75 to 150 minutes per week. You also need strength training two days per week for optimal muscle toning. Some Zumba styles, such as Zumba Toning and Zumba in the Circuit, provide strength training. However, if your Zumba class only offers a cardio workout, you’ll need to lift weights, perform body-weight exercises such as squats and push-ups or engage in other types of resistance exercise.

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