The dance fitness craze Zumba offers a safe, time-effective cardio workout for exercisers of all experience levels, from pros to moms who can only spare a little time at the gym. For those busy moms, maximum calorie burn is key. One Zumba workout can burn anywhere from 350 to 900 calories, according to the Zumba Instructors Network teachers at Zumba of Michigan. Depending on your routine, level or exertion and body weight, your caloric expenditure varies, making it difficult to pin down a de facto "best" type of Zumba for burning calories; certain types of Zumba, however, do burn more calories than others.
In 2012, the American Council on Exercise and the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse determined that during an average Zumba class, women burned about 9.5 calories per minute. At this rate, a one-hour class burns roughly 570 calories. ACE's study says that the average Zumba exerciser experiences a heart rate of about 154 beats per minute.
Calorie burn in Zumba depends on the cardiovascular intensity of the workout, so to increase the amount of calories burned, you need to increase this intensity. Zumba classes that feature more complex dance moves or faster-paced music can lead to more caloric expenditure. Likewise, longer classes and more demanding instructors lead to greater calorie loss, so look for these heart-pumping features if you want to focus on burning calories.
Zumba in the Circuit
At the time of publication, Zumba offers eight different types of classes. For greater calorie burn, Zumba's two high-intensity classes are your best bets. Among them, Zumba in the Circuit -- an alternative to low-impact classes such as Aqua Zumba or Zumba Gold -- uses Latin-inspired beats for an intensive workout that includes strength-training exercises performed at timed intervals. Exercisers move from station to station, dancing to heart-pumping salsa, merengue and hip-hop beats in a workout that "blast[s] calories," according to the Fitness and Wellness Center at Miami Dade College. In addition to burning calories on the spot, Zumba in the Circuit can boost your metabolism. As noted by Mayo Clinic, a higher metabolic rate leads to greater caloric expenditure on average, as your metabolic rate accounts for 60 to 75 percent of the calories you burn each day.
Alongside Zumba in the Circuit, Zumba Sentao offers another high-impact dance-fitness workout. Zumba Sentao incorporates world rhythms and tasks exercisers with using a chair as a workout prop. This challenges you to use both your arms and legs extensively, performing resistance moves that target the abs and core, a combination that, in Zumba's own words, helps you “torch calories.” Speaking to "Shape" magazine in 2013, fitness author Lou Schuler pointed out that core-focused exercises flatten the tummy more effectively than, for example, simple crunches, as they engage a wider range of muscles, which leads to greater calorie burn. Although Zumba doesn't offer official figures for caloric expenditure, Zumba in the Circuit and Zumba Sentao increase the cardiovascular intensity of the Zumba workout, creating greater potential for caloric expenditure. However, these classes are best for those who have some prior experience with this exercise style.
For virtually any type of Zumba, you can increase your calorie burn with a few simple tweaks. Maximize your arm movements and -- to put it bluntly -- incorporate a little more booty shaking into your dance moves to melt additional calories. If you're particularly comfortable with some moves, give them a little extra flair or accent. The key is simply to move as much as possible -- each shake, twist or flourish you can squeeze out of your Zumba workout amounts to more calories burned.