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Zumba, aerobics: dancing to different beats

Zumba, aerobics: dancing to different beats

Dance-based fitness routines Zumba and aerobics may look alike and have similar health benefits. However, they differ technically and conceptually
Both in Zumba and aerobics the fitness dancing routine are done in groups.
In Zumba, Latin beats are played for dancing while in aerobics rhythmic beats are used.

Zumba and aerobics have takers among people of all ages and genders. The universal popularity notwithstanding, many think Zumba and aerobics are the same. It is easy to have this misconception because of the similarities between the two, including health benefits and how the sessions are held. However, both are quite different technically and conceptually.

“It is understandable why (people mistake they both are the same),” says Niranjana Iyer, a certified Zumba instructor since 2016 under Zumba Fitness, LLC, from Bengaluru. “When you go into a Zumba session, you are around different people following one instructor. The same format goes with aerobics. This is primarily the major resemblance between Zumba and aerobics dance group classes. Both workouts are done with music.”


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What are Zumba and aerobics?

Zumba is a dance-based fitness activity developed by Beto Perez, a dancer and choreographer from Colombia, in 2001. The brand Zumba LLC promotes and manages it.

“Zumba is Latin-oriented, and it comprises different Latin-American music genres and choreographies like Merengue, Cumbia, Reggaeton, Salsa and so on,” explains Arunima Gupta, a licensed instructor since 2013, and co-founder of The Floor, a dance and fitness studio in Kochi. “What happens in a Zumba session is a one-hour fitness activity where you do different choreographed pieces. Each choreography which is of different beats, rhythms and movements, will take three to five minutes. You finish up to 14 choreographies in an hour.”

Aerobics is a few decades older and was developed by Dr Kenneth H Cooper in 1966. It comprises repeat movements of the largest muscles in your legs, hips and arms. The choreographed dance-based activity is set to music. Aerobics helps strengthen the heart and respiratory functions. A typical aerobics session consists of warmups and stretches for five to ten minutes, target heartbeat-range dance for 20-30 minutes, body sculpting for 20 minutes, and cooling down for five to ten minutes.

Difference between Zumba and aerobics

What makes Zumba and aerobics different are the technicalities. From body movements to the music used, certain elements give them their distinct nature.

“In aerobics, the movements are very physical, those are exercise movements put in a dance format,” says Prachee Passi Hinduja, a certified Zumba and fitness instructor based in the UAE. “Wherein Zumba, you have a few similar movements like flexion of the biceps, shoulder press etc. Still, the majority is the dance. So, in Zumba, we can say it is 80 per cent dance and 20 per cent exercise movements.”

Iyer further illustrates the differences.

“Aerobics has workouts that are good to build your aerobic capacity,” she adds. “It improves your oxygen intake and cardiovascular health. Zumba has similar benefits. The difference with aerobics is that it is mostly music according to beats, and it is not Latin-oriented. Zumba has a Latin charm and style to it. Aerobics mostly uses western beats or monotonic beats. It is more of an aerobic movement and much less a style of dance.”

Health benefits of Zumba and aerobics

Dancing to vibrant music for maintaining fitness is an immersive, joyous and highly rewarding experience. The benefits are plenty and common for both Zumba and aerobics.


Dance-based fitness activities help maintain body weight and control lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

 “What most people are interested is in losing weight,” says Gupta. “Zumba is a quick calorie burner. To reach the number of calories that you burn in one Zumba session, you need to work in the gym for two hours. Even if it is running, you need to run for at least ten kilometres to get where we are in a Zumba class. It (a dance-based workout) is very good for women who are going through Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). For everyone who has PCOS, doctors prescribe physical activity.”

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Because of the hormonal imbalance that accompanies PCOS, weight gain is common. Dance-based workouts, which are intense, help in burning more calories, thereby keeping the body weight in check.


According to a 2017 research paper in the Indian Journal of Physical Education, Sports and Applied Sciences by Rekha Sharma et.al, Zumba has diverse neurological benefits. The dance incorporates physical and expressive elements that impact brain function, and the physical activity that goes along with it has positive effects on everything from memory enhancement to improved neuronal connections.

 “The happy hormones, endorphins, released in the body during Zumba and aerobics sessions make you happy. The mood instinctively gets shifted. You can feel the shift in your energy,” says Hinduja.


Zumba and aerobics are cardiovascular exercises and help improve overall stamina.

 “When I started my training, my stamina was so poor. Six weeks later there was a tremendous difference, and now I can do Zumba continuously for three hours,” says Hinduja. “Your overall health increases. It increases your lung capacity. Improved breathing results in the rise of the amount of oxygen that you are taking in. Your breaths become deep and long. Because more oxygen is being delivered to various body parts, the blood flow to those areas improves.”


The benefits of Zumba and aerobics are not limited to physical health. Since both are group activities, there are psychosocial benefits as well.

 “Of course, you can also do it alone but predominantly Zumba and aerobics are group exercises,” says Hinduja. “When you go for group sessions, you interact with people. That will help to improve your social skills. I have seen some of my clients come out of their shells (through the course of attending sessions).”


  • Zumba and aerobics are mistaken to be the same because of the similarities between them, including health benefits and the way sessions are held.
  • Zumba comprises different Latin-American music genres and choreographies while aerobics involves repeat movements of the largest muscles in your legs, hips, and arms to the music. The music, body movements, etc differ.
  • Both have physiological, neurological, cardiovascular, and psychosocial benefits. They help maintain body weight, keep lifestyle diseases under control, enhance memory and improve neuronal connections, build stamina, and develop social skills.

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