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Reflections on fitness, wellness, health and more

Zumba Fitness – Temporary Fad or Here to Stay?

For those of us that have been in the fitness industry for a while, we are sure to have seen fads and trends come and go. From personal experience it’s also been quite interesting to see those that have stuck around for the long run.

The Reebok Slide, stair climbers and Tae Bo are good examples of trends that seemed to take hold of the industry in a flash – but then just as quickly disappeared. Others like Les Mills pre-choreographed classes, balance training and indoor cycling are great examples of so called “trends” that ended up sticking around for good.

Which brings me to the latest trend which appears to have exploded on to the Australian scene – seemingly out of nowhere! There is no denying that at health clubs, church halls, community centres and even schools, everybody is talking about or doing Zumba. I have not seen this much interest in a new fitness or group exercise program since BodyPump first came on to the scene back in the 90s. It has re-invigorated interest in fitness and, to its credit, brought new people into our industry who may not have considered doing so otherwise.

There’s no denying the appeal of Zumba. It’s easy to follow, set to captivating music and sexy. Women (and some men) flock to the classes in droves to socialise and dance, with the thought of a workout being completely secondary.
For the average health club owner or manager the lack of license fees and the fact that most of the music is PPCA free is also a huge attraction. With the exposure it’s getting on TV with the mid-morning and late evening infomercials, it is also driving people to the gym that might not have done so otherwise.

There has been some understandable concern from the industry about the lack of experience and qualification that some Zumba instructors have. As many are new to the whole scene, they have often not completed a base level qualification such as a certificate III in fitness, and this can occasionally translate into some missing skill sets.

Some have also questioned Zumba’s longevity due to only having a small variety of programs, and with the new Australian music laws, a small variety of music. Others have pointed out that Zumba has been running successfully in the overseas market for a number of years now and continues to be popular.

All I will say is, it appears that Zumba will continue to grow; and as long as it continues to attract new people to our clubs and industry – good on them! What about you? Do you see Zumba as a long term trend or a temporary fad for the industry? Are you a Zumba instructor? And if so, what do you think about the longevity of it as a program?

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Posted by: Wendy Watkins | 25-Nov-2010 09:59 AM |

I think if Zumba is in a gym, the instructor should have a cert iii. Fitness Australia is supposedly our body for quality control, but it seems when money and numbers come in, it is easy to turn a blind eye. If the Zumba instructor is teaching a stretch and doesn't know basic things like, a calf stretch, a hip flexor stretch, that is being passed on and taught incorrectly to hundreds of people(because of tv advertising). It is good to have numbers in the gym, but Fitness Australia has accredited this course, and it doesn't seem to have to meet the same standards as other courses. The same goes for Les Mills GEL. Sometimes I wonder how I have benefited from being a registered fitness professional and what Fitness Australia have done for me.

Posted by: Kathryn Frain | 25-Nov-2010 10:35 AM |

I am a qualified Zumba instructor, personal trainer, freestyle instructor and dancer and I love what Zumba has done in terms of getting previously inactive people moving again.
I often have women who tell me that before Zumba they would never have dreamt of stepping foot in a gym so from an industry and national health standpoint this is fantastic to see!

However I am very concerned at the inexperience of some instructors. As cert III is not a requirement (however it is recommended by Zumba) many instructors that I have come in contact with have no knowledge of basic fitness concepts (warm up/ cool down, stretching, dealing with injuries etc).
I covered for a class not that long ago where the particpants complained because my warm up went for too long as they were used to their old instructor who used to go 'straight into the hard stuff!!'

Many new Zumba instructors are previous participants that have gone on to teach to 'spread the Zumba love' but really lack the knowledge on how to teach it and the responsibility that you have to your participants to do this in the safest way possible. It is not enough to love Zumba and wear all the merchandise, you also have to be able to teach it safely following industry group exercise guidelines!!

So while Zumba is doing wonders for group exercise across the country I think instructors really have to personally assess their own abilities as teachers and remember that while Zumba is all about 'fun' the bottom line is you are still teaching an exercise regime to (in most cases) relatively inexpereienced participants who are counting on you to deliver safe effective exercise.

Posted by: Kelli Odzovski | 25-Nov-2010 11:38 AM | 4 out of 5 stars

Fad! But a great fad. People are flocking to gyms to try it, so that makes Zumba a winner, for now, to me. I`m a personal trainer and cycle instructor and think if it makes ya move then FANTASTIC!!! Very good point though re: qualifications. Any class run in a gym should be run by a fully qualified instructor. It is a reflection on the club so not only should Fitness Australia regulate this more, but gym owners/managers need to be more on the ball with what staff are qualified to do. What will the next fad be I wonder....looking forward to it, whatever it is.

Posted by: Anonymous | 26-Nov-2010 08:03 AM | 5 out of 5 stars

I own & operate a private Personal Training Studio in South West Sydney. We also run Group PT sessions as the demographic in my area see's this as an effective way to stay in business. We average approximately 16-24 people per training session (yes we use more than 1 trainer ). On Monday however, we did our first ZUMBA class and had 52 people attend our first session!! From a Small Business Owner perspective - Fad or not, ZUMBA is getting people of the couch and exposing them to other aspects of fitness (when run in a gym/studio environment).....I hope it is here to stay!!!

Posted by: Debra | 26-Nov-2010 09:43 PM | 3 out of 5 stars

Hi I am a fitness instructor & EX dance teacher, I booked into doing the Zumba Course in early Nov , but got a refund as the lastest zumba classes I have attended at our gym are showing to much leaning towards Hip Hop moves where is the good old Waka waka stuff, Time will tell

Posted by: Anonymous | 28-Nov-2010 09:12 AM | 5 out of 5 stars

I am 51 I have become regular to the gym for 18 months I go to almost all gym classes now but zumba is my favorite. Since we started having zumba at the gym I go at least twice a week. In all classes there are at least 30 people and we all love it. I see mothers and young daughters, friends, sisters going. I sweat a lot and I think because of the type of music they use and the emphasis on being sexy it just makes you feel confident and sexy which is not a bad thing

Posted by: Kim | 30-Nov-2010 12:36 PM | 4 out of 5 stars

While it is great that Zumba is getting people to exercise who would not have otherwise, I am concerned with the safety of participants. As a new Group Ex instructor and Pilates instructor I feel safety is one of the most important factors in a class. I have heard of a few people injuring their back in a Zumba class - not necessarily because of a poor instructor, but possibly because these are de-conditioned participants who have not exercised in quite a while. They are quite stiff and weak and perhaps rapidly gyrating their hips and pumping their hands above their heads is not the best way back into fitness.

I have been to a few Zumba classes, a few I enjoyed more than others, but what I found was the classes were so varied based on the instructor's skill and preferences. Every instructor taught different and different moves. While this may seem good for variety, we lose consistency. Additionally in all of the classes their were no options provided! So for those who have weak scapula stabilisers, shaking their arms above their head for an extended amount of time (or even just one track) will dramatically increase their likelihood of injury. The same for hip rotations and jumping. Cert III should definitely be a minimum requirement to be a Zumba instructor as well as insurance. I don't even know how they would get insurance without a Cert III but it is possible that these instructors do not even know about these requirements.

Posted by: Jodi | 01-Dec-2010 01:09 PM | 5 out of 5 stars

I'm a qualified Cert III group fitness instructor as well as Zumba qualified in all their specialties. I do agree that at least Cert III should be your minimum requirements. Re the comment where options aren't given, I always give a higher and lower option for every move that requries jumping or twisting. I also remind people to lock on their ab's to protect their backs. I think Zumba is definitely taught how we as the instructors interpret the moves and the music. Also regarding most classes heading towards hip hop, again thats the instructors doing that not Zumba itself, personally I'm not a hip hop fan and most of my songs are traditional Zumba music and the traditional dances such as merengue. As the instructor you have the choice to choose the song style. I think Zumba is here to stay, its changing peoples lives everyday. People that would never go to a gym or even a dance class because they think they're not co-ordinated, where as they love Zumba because it doesn't matter if you don't get the step as long as you're not doing anything dangerous, but you're having fun thats the main thing

Posted by: Julie Norris | 01-Dec-2010 06:04 PM | 5 out of 5 stars

I have recently become a Zumba instructor after a great many years as a qualified dance teacher, pilates instructor and cert 4 PT. I agree that anything gets people motivated to move is a great thing but was rather shocked to see the level of inexperience some of the people attending the teacher training had. The general feel I got was that they were students who saw how many people attend their class, did the maths and wanted to make a quick buck.

I must admit that I teach my classes with a headset mic to ensure that I am getting technique across for the people who are unused to exercise rather than just use the hand signals recommended and I always ensure that the basics of fitness and dance technique is clearly communicated to ensure that safe exercise practices are maintained.

There are some really fab teachers out there and hopefully they will be the ones that keep the Zumba classes going with integrity, safety and the fun factor and that people continue to Zumba and have a great time.

Posted by: Scott Windus | 02-Dec-2010 09:05 AM | 3 out of 5 stars

I know any movement is better than no movement but my concern is people are using Zumba as their sole form of exercise. I lack the co-ordination to do it myself however have watched numerous classes. I really believe Zumba lacks the intensity to maintain an elevated heart rate where it is doing more good than a long walk on the beach. The main reason for this, I believe, is people struggling with the moves. The focus is then on how to do it and look good rather than pushing yourself to really sweat. Sure incorporate a little more fun in your weekly workouts by throwing in a Zumba class just don’t forget to include things like HIIT and resistance training if you want more than a social outing.

Posted by: Pete Tansley | 02-Dec-2010 03:05 PM |

I did a vlog on this recently and was slammed by Zumba enthusiasts from Australia and the US... You can view it here:

Posted by: Ariel Gonzalez- Motivate You Fitness & Personal Training | 02-Dec-2010 08:48 PM | 3 out of 5 stars

Anything that gets people moving, must be good for them!

My wife attended many classes where up to 100 or more people showed up, according to her. She is still attending, but not as frequently as before, and the numbers have also dropped. her theory is a lack of consistency with the Zumba teachers. One week is is very basic, others its completely different and too difficult for some.

Its human nature, people need novelty, but they also need predictability.

Only time will tell whether is a fad or if its here to stay.

Posted by: Shelley Trisley | 02-Dec-2010 09:49 PM |

I instruct part time (not Zumba) and have to say that having put the time and effort in to obtain my cert 3, attending programs such as Filex, paying insurances and registration fees with Fitness Australian, Network memberships etc. etc. I am feeling a little ripped off that any joe blow can walk in do a day course and teach Zumba! In saying that, I think that anything that gets people moving and enjoying exercise is fantastic, I just think that it should be safe & effective and I strongly agree with Wendy Watkins comments as far as questioning how I have benefited from being a registered fitness professional.

Posted by: Sydney Zin Instructor | 05-Dec-2010 05:03 PM | 5 out of 5 stars

Zumba Head Office has now come up with a new option for Zumba instructors to maintain quality and standard. It will put to the instructor to attend these sessions in whatever city they live in. Not only that, you can attend the Zumba Instructors Convention in the USA yearly (provided you can afford it) Zumba Head Office is already on to this issue as it has been brought up by Zumba Instructors. You will find that the serious Z instructors aim at completing their Cert 3 and are getting all the qualifications required, but you also have instructors that have no intentions on doing any further studies regarding fitness. All I ask is that other fitness instructors give us Zumba Instructors a chance as we are learning and are doing our best to gain all the qualifications required.

Posted by: Anonymous | 06-Dec-2010 12:39 PM | 5 out of 5 stars

Zumba is here to stay and I agree with Sydney Zin instructor. The more serious Zumba instructors like myself are working hard to gain our cert 3 attending workshops etc I am going to Filex this year and will continue to learn as much as I can in this industry to make sure I am doing my job correctly. All we ask is we are given a chance to prove we deserve to be here.

Posted by: Jules | 12-Dec-2010 08:28 PM | 5 out of 5 stars

I am a Zumba Instructor who has been also been in the fitness indusrty for 20yrs and I love it! Zumba is fresh, its new and it allows us as the Instructor to run our own business. We get to finally reap the benefits without having to bow down to the big gyms or Les Mills...I think its about time best idea ever :))).

Posted by: Newbie Zumba Instructor | 17-Jan-2011 02:12 PM | 5 out of 5 stars

I am a dance teacher, and recently became a Zumba instructor. One of the things I like about Zumba is that every instructor is different because the instructor decides what songs they are going to use in class. I noticed Debra (26-11-10) mentioned that she decided not to do the Zumba course because her instructor was doing too much Hip Hop - I just want to point out to Debra that this is the Instructors choice, and if you become an instructor you can choose to add Hip Hop or not. I'm not a hip hop dancer, so probably won't be using it much in my classes - and most of the songs in a Zumba class should still be latin based anyway, but there is some creativity given to the instructors.
I think for this reason Zumba will be around for quite a while - because every class is different, and who doesn't love to dance!
I do agree, however, that all Zumba Instructors should still have a minimum Cert 3 in Fitness - after all it is a fitness class! I'm just in the process of completing mine, and will start classes once I've finished.

Posted by: Anonymous | 04-Feb-2011 10:04 AM | 1 out of 5 stars

Fad... hated it, got bored, instructor seemed complete novice!

Posted by: Katrina Nielsen | 09-Mar-2011 01:34 AM |

I think one of the biggest appeals of Zumba is the mass marketing campaign they have undertaken. EVERYONE seems to be in on the fad. Plus I think they may have slightly over-estimated the workout that it gives you- (claims of burning up to 1000 calories per class) I am a Les Mills Attack, Step and Balance instructor and was recently asked by some (soon to be ex) friends of mine if I wanted to come and do Zumba classes with them........ I dont think they have any idea of just how strenuous an Attack class is compared to a Zumba workout!

If it gets people moving then great- we wlcome you to the guy! Hopefully then people will be more encouraged to try more classes- such as the Les Mills programs which I would say are more consistant and often greater possibilities to improve fitness

Posted by: Kazz | 17-Mar-2011 07:33 AM | 5 out of 5 stars

I appreciate what ZUMBA has done for our fitness industry. Firstly it is giving Les Mills a run for it's money (they want you to pay excessive amounts to run their programs in gyms or at community halls. they have had the monopoly on the fitness industry for far too long). I have been in the industry for nearly 16 years & since Les Mills came in, it took the life out of individualism, creativity & self expression. ZUMBA provides freestyle moves & music - a god sent for me, I love choosing my own music, putting moves together (that are safe & effective of course) & if your participants are struggling with the choreography, you can pull it back &/or change it. YES it needs to be more vigilant on qualifications, but if you think back, Les Mills teachers in the beginning were the same - they had no background in anything & were able to teach. It can only be a positive thing if it gets people active & also to 'enjoy' their workout. I hope it stays around for a long time, but unfortunately people's lives are so busy & they only get busier, that parents with families, they tend to get the first priority & exercise is the first thing to get given up! All the best to all that teaching it & if your not already, why not have a go? It's an extra feather in your cap & your adding an extra tool to your toolbox... :}

Posted by: married to a senior scammer! | 13-Jul-2011 11:08 PM |

it's a scam!! I am actualy connected to very senior people and hate it! I hate it because I know what it is!! You pay $35 per month to get the new music, you pay hundreds for 1 day courses /master classes to get qualifications only recognized by Zumba..zumba
atomic, zumba aquatic..stupid courses that cost big money for usless qual. Zumba itself is a scam too, they won't cap the amount of instructeds (and there's 400 new ones every month in australi alone!) it costs over $300 to qualified. And they need to keep
updating couses and ongoing fees to stay certifed. The govt should regulate the crap out of this as the money is all cash so none pay tax. Also international instructeds swan around the world, fly in for a week as tourists but actualy do master classes where
they then get paid cash (no tax again) and fly back out. The whole zumba scam is actualy a serious problem. And the guy who started it was esentualy funded by culumbian drug money.. Regulate it !!!

Posted by: Jasmine White | 16-Aug-2011 08:30 AM | 5 out of 5 stars

I'm writing from Texas USA. I'd like to speak to the fad aspect. and safety aspect. Zumba has been around for 10 years and is being taught all over the world. there are thousands of Zumba instructors worldwide and their numbers are growing. I'm Licensed
in Zumba and it the process of getting my Group Fitness Certification. I'm one of those Zumba students who loves it so much that I decided to teach it. I had no intention of getting my group fitness certification but no one will hire me without it AND at the
annual Zumba instructors convention every class I took said, "Get your group fitness certification." If it weren't for Zumba I would not be on this career path. I also used to practice and teach yoga and then I got bored with it. Now I do yoga again so I have
the strength to do Zumba. When I get my group fit certification (AFAA) I'll be teaching yoga again too. If you haven't tried Zumba, go try it now! Its more fun than any other group fit class I've ever taken and fun is a great motivator!!