Burning the Myth On Zumba Calories

I have to speak out! You cannot burn 1000 calories in an hour of Zumba Fitness class. Nor can you burn 850 as this photo circulating around Facebook claims.  I love Zumba and like most have lost 10 or more pounds doing it regularly. But the journalist in me cringes every time someone makes the claim that you burn zillions of calories doing Zumba Fitness. It doesn’t matter how happy you are during that hour it’s false. But the news is still good.

So you know, a calorie is unit of heat energy and how we measure the energy we consume and burn.  For example, fats have nine calories per gram. Proteins and carbohydrates have four calories per gram. Pure alcohol has seven calories. The rate we burn this energy changes to meet the needs of the body. That’s why to lose weight you must burn more calories than you take in. Hence, doing more Zumba classes and not increasing food in take has been the recipe of success for so many Zumba Lovers.

My own anecdotal evidence finds an hour of hard core Zumba Fitness… with lots of high impact merengue, fast salsa and butt kicking reaggeaton mixed in burns around 500 calories. I have measured with 24 Hour Fitness’ Bodybugg and Polar’s heart rate monitor. The heart rate monitor showed I burned less.

More scientifically, the American Council on Exercise’s (ACE) independent study of Zumba Fitness classes found a group of 18-22 year olds burned 9.5 calories per minute or 369 calories in an average class (consider warm-up and cool down). It says that’s more than cardio kickboxing or step aerobics.

Researchers also said because of the high and low intervals in the class more calories are burned compared to steady stage exercise like jogging. ACE also noted the importance of instructor expertise to insure a safe and effective workout.

But don’t get bogged down by the numbers. The point is Zumba is a party so people want to do it. If you can get your butt up and moving that’s more than half the battle. A fun fitness class putting a smile on your face and sweat on your forehead will put you on the path to good health. Then, hopefully you’ll get the bug to try other exercise activities with weights or in the water. Americans need to move more and lower the rate of obesity in this country.  Let’s get everyone to join the Party MOVEment and get on the path to better health. You don’t have to burn 1000 calories in an hour to achieve this.

ACE Study: http://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/2813/zumba-174-sure-it-39-s-fun-but-is-it-effective



A really fun person!

16 Comments on “Burning the Myth On Zumba Calories

  1. As a science student i’ve actually read and analyized the study you refer to which was commissioned by ace. In the study it states that the “average” calories burned with 9.5 per min, however the high in the class was 15.1 per min. Doing the math again, that little image floating around is correct. What people don’t realize is that the amount of calories you burn in a given period of a certain exercise also depends on your weight. A larger person is going to burn more calories then someone whose smaller and more fit. So for someone starting out at 300 calories, doing an hour of Zumba, can deffinatly burn 1000 calories.

    • Yeah a larger person will burn more, but the pic floating around was estimated on a weight of 155lbs. So i agree with Davida. Then for you Bethany how do you know you burned 900 calories? I’m guessing you just guessed and think you did. If someone that big can do that for an hour straight I would want video proof. I see people get tired of climbing stairs that weigh less than that.

      • I weigh 353 pounds and I go for every second of the class. Believe it or not, I can actually keep up a lot better than some of the thinner ladies in my class.

  2. Very interesting you would say that. That person would probably have to be pretty large and really work their ass off in the class. What do you calculate they should weigh?

    All experts I’ve talked to have agreed its VERY hard to burn 1000 calories in an hour. Runners and cyclist don’t do it.

    • I weigh 253 pounds and do exhilirate for an hour a day. When ai first started I easily worked off 900. Now that I’m used to it, I work off maybe 400-700.

  3. I weighed 238lbs starting out. I have crazy muscle composition and have dropped to 190. I have a calorie counter I wear while I an working out and on average, due to my weight I burn about 790 calories in my 1 hr zumba class. When I started at 238 I would burn around 900. And yeah I was out of breath but I have seen big girls that had better stamina than the skinny ones. It isn’t all about weight. If you are more in shape even if you are bigger you can work out longer than a skinny person. 190 and I wear a size 13. So boo yah.

  4. In response to Nate… I weighed 5 days ago at 324. I have in those last 5 days completed 3 hour long Zumba classes sucessfully. And even won a challenge amongst my more veteran classmates today. I have three young kids and have always been very active despite my weight. So you never know. It is possible.

  5. I started at 250 lbs almost 3 years ago and lost 80 lbs with Zumba and diet modification. I am now a licensed Zumba fitness instructor. What I will tell you is this… I can do Zumba for an hour and burn 200 calories and I can do Zumba for an hour and burn 700 calories (at my current weight). It is all about the effort, the instructor, the moves…. it can be the most intense workout imagineable if thats where you take it with a high intensity instructor. I am quite confident that I was burning around 1000 calories for a high intensity 1 hr class at a higher weight… and yes, I completed an hour of breathing out my ears at 250 lbs.

  6. If you are in my advanced class and know the routines, you are definitely hitting above 500/hour. We leave drenched. I have had athletes, dancers and runners tell me that my classes have significantly raised their stamina. Some of my students have finally been able to lose that 20 stubborn pounds in just a few months or whose bad cholesterol has dropped. My kids, seniors and basic classes are a different story. It really all depends on the class, the student and the teacher. Imagine the higher level of cardiovascular intensity you would find in a group of instructors or experienced dancers are going to hit with a Zumba Education Specialist or at a master class. It’s hardly the same as the study of college girls dropping in on a class you mention in your article. Also worth mentioning is that it’s not all about burning calories, but toning, strengthening, and as you said HAVING FUN!! #zlove

    • I’m sure your Zumba class is very high impact. Mine too. But the point is it’s VERY hard to burn 1000 calories in one hour as so many Zumba lovers claim. I along with people in my class have worn various calorie calculating devices and have hit 600 or so but never near 1000 in an hour. And I’m a big girl and dance my ass off!

  7. I use the Microsoft bsnd and I burn, depending on my energy level and intensity between 700 & 1000 In an hour of Zumba. I have the numbers on my app that prove this…

    • I would contend your band is not accurate unless you’re very heavy and doing every movement at a high level. But keep up the good work!

  8. 175 lb girl here. My first Zumba class I wore my heart rate monitor like always, and burned 860 calories.

    Obviously people who go to Zumba all the time, who are thinner perhaps, have more stamina, etc, will burn a lot less. My boyfriend is 160lbs. When we hike for the same time, same duration, I burn 1300 calories in a 3-4 hour hike, while he barely burns 700 because he hikes all the time.

    So yes, its possible to burn 1000 calories in Zumba. No, it is not standard for everyone.

  9. Whilst i accept its likely rare to burn 1000 calories, claiming the fitness equipment is likely broken, over accepting you may not be correct seems a little desperate. We are ALL different and whilst I burn around 650 calories, I can believe that someone larger than me could burn significantly more.

  10. Age, weight and intensity each play a major role in calorie burn. The younger you are, the more calories you burn. The heavier you are, the more calories you burn. It’s impossible to compare. That said, a 20 year old who weighs 100 lbs may burn less than a 30 year old who weighs 300 lbs due to the exertion they put out. Or it can be vice-versa!! The best way to know what you burn is to wear a heart rate monitor around your chest (NOT your wrist, as they are not as accurate)
    Whatever you burn, be proud that you are exercising! THAT’S what’s important.

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