Yes, it burns calories, improves heart health, and reduces stress. But this exercise offers older adults even more.
Zumba has been called exercise in disguise—and for good reason. The hour-long class involves dancing to the beat of Latin-inspired tunes while sneaking in both low- and high-intensity moves.
“Zumba classes are energizing, community-building, and designed to provide much of what we love in SilverSneakers classes,” says Terecita “Ti” Blair, the 2017 SilverSneakers Instructor of the Year based in Denver. “These include cardiovascular benefits, balance- and coordination-building, and most importantly, fun.”
In fact, a recent study by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) analyzed the benefits of Zumba Gold, a lower-intensity class, and found that a single session meets the exercise-intensity guidelines for improving and maintaining cardio fitness in middle-aged and older adults, says Sabrena Jo, a senior exercise scientist with ACE.
Heart benefits aside, there are plenty of other reasons to love Zumba. Here are six more reasons to give it a try.
1. It’s Easy on the Joints
As you get older, bone density and joint support naturally start to wane, which means high-impact exercises like running may not be doable. Zumba is an excellent low-impact workout, Blair says. It protects your joints and muscles while raising your heart rate and improving your balance, posture, and coordination.
Zumba Gold in particular allows you to go at your own speed and provides low-impact routines that are easy to follow.
2. It’s a Moving Meditation
Meditation is popular among health-conscious individuals for many reasons, but one of the biggest benefits is that it gives your mind a chance to rest. It clears the chatter and teaches you to be present in the here and now. Zumba is similar to meditation in that way.
Focusing on your body as it moves through rhythmic exercises helps keep you grounded in the present. It teaches you mindfulness without having to meditate. “There’s no better way to practice living in the moment than by giving yourself an opportunity to simply go with the flow,” Blair says.
3. It’s a Chance to Let Go and Laugh
Zumba truly gives you a chance to “dance like no one’s watching,” Blair says. “You don’t have to know how to dance to take a Zumba class. You just have to be willing to try.”
It helps to remember that messing up is simply part of learning—it means you’re being challenged. Be willing to laugh at yourself. “Laughter is a key ingredient of a Zumba class and of a happy, playful life,” Blair says.
Need more convincing? A recent study published in The Gerontologist found that when laughter was incorporated into a workout, it boosted older adults’ mental health, aerobic endurance, and confidence regarding exercise.
4. It Keeps Your Brain Sharp
Unlike many forms of exercise, Zumba offers an endless variety of movements. You start with the basics and then gradually layer on new techniques. This fancy footwork keeps your brain active and focused, Blair says. “Shifting your weight and rhythmic steps challenge hand-eye coordination and right-left brain activity.”
And the benefits don’t stop once you learn the moves. “Familiar Zumba dance moves can help increase our neuromuscular memory so we feel successful,” Blair says.
5. You’ll Never Stop Improving—In and Out of Class
Mastering each new Zumba movement is a small win. Your success might inspire you to challenge yourself again, moving toward more advanced moves, Blair says.
Plus, that motivation to face new challenges often translates into real life. “On the Zumba floor, we practice patience with ourselves and others, and we gain confidence to learn new tasks,” Blair says. “These are qualities that can be useful in all of our daily interactions.”
6. It Helps You Stick to an Exercise Routine
In the ACE study, researchers noted a common post-workout sentiment among Zumba participants: They truly enjoyed the experience. Eventually, Blair says, an “I can’t dance” declaration becomes a “That was fun!” exclamation—which then turns into “Let’s do it again!”
That’s the goal. “With the power of dance and Zumba,” Blair says, “you are instilling self-confidence, empowerment, and healthy risk-taking all while adding fun back to movement.”