If you love to shake your groove thing, Zumba may provide just the kick you need to start loving exercise. This spicy, Latin-inspired aerobic dance style not only stirs your senses, but also incinerates calories to help you burn fat -- and fat burning is the key to losing inches. That said, spot-training is a myth, and losing inches from your legs and thighs requires all-over weight loss -- which Zumba can help you accomplish.
Your legs and thighs will grow smaller when you lose total body fat, which requires creating a calorie deficit. Zumba and other other exercises help, but you still need to eat fewer calories than you burn each day. One pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories; this means you can lose 1 pound each week by burning 500 more calories than you eat each day. With regular exercise such as Zumba, most young women burn 2,000 to 2,200 calories per day.
Zumba and Fat Loss
The more vigorous and lengthy your Zumba workout, the more calories you'll burn. The American Council on Exercise sponsored a study on this zesty cardio style and found wide variance in calorie burning; however, the average participant melted an impressive 369 calories in a single session. At that rate, you can lose 1 pound of fat in fewer than 10 Zumba classes if your weight is steady on your current diet and you don't increase food intake. The exercise could make you hungrier, however, so resist the urge to pig out after your Zumba class.
Inches vs. Weight
You're smart to concern yourself with inches, as thigh measurements may indicate fat loss more accurately than your scale. Although weight and body size are closely related, it's possible to gain weight even as you lose inches because muscle matter is denser than fat -- and you'll likely shed fat while gaining muscle tissue once you start your Zumba routine. To monitor your progress, schedule weekly measuring sessions for your thighs and legs, and don't let your weight fool you into thinking that your efforts aren't paying off.
For maximum fat burning, include Zumba or other aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, running or cycling, into your routine most days of the week. And don't forget about strength-training moves, which sculpt lovely legs and thighs while boosting your resting metabolic rate for faster weight loss. Perform these exercises, which include lifting weights or performing body-weight activities such as pushups, situps and squats, two to three times per week, working all major muscle groups. You can also get your strength training in with a hybrid Zumba class such as Zumba Toning. If you're currently sedentary, consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.