Research shows that women view Zumba workouts as better than exercise

December 2, 2015 by Mojgan Sherkat, University of California - Riverside

Women who trade the tedium of treadmills, for the fun and zing of a Zumba dance-fitness class report having fewer reservations, insecurities, and concerns about social judgment than in traditional group fitness classes. That's according to research conducted by Tanya Nieri, assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside.

"Women appreciate Zumba's incorporation of dancing which frames the class as a party," Nieri explained. "However, because Zumba is an exercise class, not an actual party or dance class, the participants perceive themselves to be freed from the rules that normally apply in such settings. Instead, they view the class as an opportunity to build skill, explore their bodies, and express themselves creatively."

Published in Sociology of Sport Journal, Nieri's study, "All About Having Fun: Women's Experience of Zumba Fitness," describes women's experience of Zumba in an effort to understand the popularity and impact of the workout. Her curiosity about the Latin-themed dance workout stems from her own experience as a group fitness instructor and a Zumba participant.

Nieri, along with a team of research assistants, interviewed more than 40 women from Southern California who ranged in age from 18 to 68 years. The women came from different ethnic backgrounds, and the majority had taken other group fitness classes prior to Zumba. Two themes emerged from the study: First, that Zumba is fun, but exercise is not; and second, Zumba is dancing, but not exactly.

"Although participants viewed the class as exercise, rather than recreation, they distinguished Zumba from other forms of fitness," Nieri explained.

The women associated other fitness forms with negative characteristics, describing them as boring, stressful, painful, lonely, and involving awkward movement. They described Zumba, however, as fun, stress free, holistic, socially supportive, and involving natural movement.

Many of the women said they felt insecure while participating in other fitness forms. One of the participants said, "When I'm working out on the treadmills, I'm like 'Oh my gosh, people are walking by and looking at me!'" But, she described Zumba differently. "I can go in there and dance like I want, like I was in my own room by myself. I don't think people are watching me like, 'Oh, look at her; she's doing stupid stuff.' I don't feel that vibe; so I like the feel I get from Zumba."

Participants also attributed their positive experience of Zumba to its incorporation of dance. They described it as "good exercise disguised as fun dancing" and as less restrictive than social dancing due to the ability to wear comfortable clothing that supports movement and the lack of need for a partner. Some noted that it also provided an opportunity to perform sexual dance moves, such as "booty poppin'" (i.e., rhythmically shaking the buttocks), without eliciting sexual advances. They viewed Zumba as a safe space where they can be sexual, and do so for their own benefit.

Nieri noted that despite the perception of Zumba as liberating, the positive experience did not lead participants to question society's expectations about the need to exercise or the ideal female body. While Zumba presents itself to be countercultural—its motto is "Ditch the workout; join the party"—it does not appear to challenge dominant cultural ideals related to physical fitness and beauty.

Explore further: Scientists take a look at the feel-good benefits of belly dance

More information: Tanya Nieri et al. All About Having Fun: Women's Experience of Zumba Fitness, Sociology of Sport Journal (2015). DOI: 10.1123/ssj.2015-0071

Related Stories

Scientists take a look at the feel-good benefits of belly dance

September 8, 2014
Belly dancers have fewer hang-ups about their bodies. Most women who participate in this torso-driven dance do so because it is fun and they get to perform interesting moves – not because they necessarily feel sexier while ...

New York supermarket combines gym with groceries

May 26, 2014
Grocery shoppers who visit one of Hannaford's supermarkets in New York's capital city can also take time for a workout.

Researcher finds men strip for self-esteem boost

July 9, 2015
A new study from the University of Colorado Denver finds that male exotic dancers, or strippers, remain committed to stripping because it enhances their self-concept.

Recommended for you

Self-lubricating latex could boost condom use: study

October 17, 2018
A perpetually unctuous, self-lubricating latex developed by a team of scientists in Boston could boost the use of condoms, they reported Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

How healthy will we be in 2040?

October 17, 2018
A new scientific study of forecasts and alternative scenarios for life expectancy and major causes of death in 2040 shows all countries are likely to experience at least a slight increase in lifespans. In contrast, one scenario ...

Study finds evidence of intergenerational transmission of trauma among ex-POWs from the Civil War

October 16, 2018
A trio of researchers affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research has found evidence that suggests men who were traumatized while POWs during the U.S. Civil War transmitted that trauma to their offspring—many ...

Father's nicotine use can cause cognitive problems in children and grandchildren

October 16, 2018
A father's exposure to nicotine may cause cognitive deficits in his children and even grandchildren, according to a study in mice publishing on October 16 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Pradeep Bhide of Florida ...

Many supplements contain unapproved, dangerous ingredients: study

October 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—U.S. health officials have issued more than 700 warnings during the last decade about the sale of dietary supplements that contain unapproved and potentially dangerous drug ingredients, new research reveals.

Age at which women experience their first period is linked to their sons' age at puberty

October 12, 2018
The age at which young women experience their first menstrual bleeding is linked to the age at which their sons start puberty, according to the largest study to investigate this association in both sons and daughters.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

EnricM
not rated yet Dec 07, 2015
Whaoooo, Amazing discovery!!

Scientists demonstrate that women find one form of exercise better than exercise.
Or maybe I'm wrong an Zumba is not an exercise but a type of food?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.