In a world of SoulCycle, CrossFit, and barre, there’s a less cool – but arguably much more fun – alternative.
Zumba has become practically synonymous with marginally in-shape moms.
The dance party workout Zumba is so beloved by moms that it’s almost a joke. When Ashley Weatherford of The Cut recently interviewed Zumba CEO Alberto Perlman, she let her mom provide the questions, and it had a comical (although very insightful) effect.
But, Perlman clarified that Zumba is not, contrary to popular belief, just for moms. Its more of a coincidence that it has found its way to the millennial mom” category.
He said to Weatherford:
I think the biggest reason is that we started 15 years ago, so they grew with us. The thing about Zumba is that no one leaves. People start taking classes, and they stick to it. If you look at our fan base, our average age is about 33, 34, which is also the average age of people who go to the gym. It’s not as old as you think. We have Zumba at every single university; every college has Zumba classes, and it’s the main attraction. Take a tour of Boston University and they’ll tell you, “And we have a fitness center, with Zumba!”
So let it be known: Zumba is big. It’s bigger than SoulCycle.
“Now we have Zumba in 200,000 locations. To give you a comparison, SoulCycle has, like, 40 studios. Starbucks has 40,000 locations. And we have 200,000!” He said to Weatherford. “There are only 120,000 gyms in the world. We are in almost double the amount of gyms that there are because we can do Zumba classes in schools, churches, hospitals – anywhere with a great room and a sound system.”
And don’t discount the DVDs (which, I disclose, I used in my living room for awhile when I was about 23 and couldn’t afford to go to a nice gym).
But the reason that Zumba appeals to those who might feel shut out from a SoulCycle class or a CrossFit box might be because it’s non-threatening. Its main draw is that it’s fun; it’s like a party.
Take Racked’s intrepid Carlye Wisel, who recently went on a Zumba cruise, thereby unlocking the joyous mysticism of the exercise class.
“This is not exercise, this is fitnesstainment. The goal of Zumba isn’t to get back into your high school jeans or wow your significant other with your toned abs, it’s to spend one hour a day feeling free, gaining confidence, becoming a better you,” Wisel wrote.
Wisel also shed light on another phenomenon surrounding the workout: that many Zumba acolytes aren’t in shape. This is a sharp contrast to the ads that lured this writer to purchase those Zumba DVDs back in 2012; the ads boasted that you could torch calories from your body (and Perlman told the cut an average Zumba-goer could burn 500 to 1,000 calories in a session).
Wisel, however, suggests that the lack of in-shape participants is because “Zumba just wants you to leave happier than when you walked in,” as she puts it, not chisel your body until tears stream down your face. Further, since the emphasis is on unbridled fun rather than the desired results, it’s easy to fake it.
“You can absolutely get toned and lose weight while Zumba-ing, but it’s shockingly easy to mark the moves, ignore your core, and fall through the cracks, all while assuming you’re burning calories,” Wisel wrote.
And in turn, that could be why it’s found such a loyal audience.
In other words: Zumba has brought joy to the people. And in the end, maybe that’s better than washboard abs.