Forget boring gym workouts: dance aerobics classes let you move, groove and party your way to a healthier body. Aerobic dance classes first gained popularity in the 1970s with choreographed dance routines used as fat-burning workouts. Zumba Fitness followed suit, bursting onto the dance aerobics scene in the early 2000s. While Zumba is a type of dance aerobics, its Latin dance inspired choreography, international music and instructor training programs differ from other forms of aerobic dance.
Jacki Sorensen created the first aerobic dancing program in 1969 for the wives of Air Force members based in Puerto Rico. She gave her first public classes in New Jersey in the 1970s and her fitness method -- which combined dance moves with aerobic exercise routines -- soon gained popularity throughout the United States, inspiring similar aerobic dance workouts like Jazzercise. Celebrity fitness trainer Beto Perez launched Zumba Fitness in 2001, inspired by the rhythms and traditional dances of his native Colombia. By 2013, Zumba classes were taught at 120,000 locations including gyms and dance studios across 150 countries.
Aerobic dancing classes can vary in content and format depending on the style and the instructor. Jacki Sorensen's original method begins with a stretching warm-up and core exercises on the floor. Students then perform standing toning exercises and six to 10 choreographed dance routines designed to increase the heart rate. Students are encouraged to follow the instructor precisely in aerobic dance classes, while Zumba instructors often encourage students to dance in a freer, less uniform way. Like aerobic dance, Zumba incorporates a warm-up and cool down. However, you may not do core work on the floor. Instead, you'll work your abs throughout each high-energy cardio dance routine. These routines include salsa, merengue, and cumbia styles of dancing. Expect plenty of shimmying, chest popping and hip shaking in your Zumba class.
Zumba Fitness instructors must complete a a minimum of a one to two-day course in basic Zumba instruction and choreography before receiving a license to teach the class. To teach Jacki Sorensen's aerobic dancing method, instructors complete a training program and purchase a Jacki's franchise. Other trademarked forms of aerobic dance, like Jazzercise, have their own teacher certification programs. Some teachers who develop their own dance aerobics workouts may hold general aerobics certifications from organizations like the Aerobic and Fitness Association of America or may hold no special certifications at all.
You can find both aerobic dance and Zumba Fitness classes at gyms, dance studios and recreation centers. Classes at gyms may require a gym membership to attend, while studios and recreation center classes are more likely to be open to the public. Zumba Fitness also sells a variety of DVDs featuring cardio and sculpting workouts so you can follow the exercise program at home.
Sarah Badger is a certified pilates and group fitness instructor, writer and dance teacher. Her work has appeared in "Dance Spirit" magazine and several literary journals. Badger earned her bachelor's degree in English and religious studies from Marymount Manhattan College, and currently owns a dance and fitness studio in upstate New York.