Sunday mornings before church, my 48-year-old mother, Edi Estrella, can be found in her bedroom dancing to Grammy Award-winning music artists such as Shakira, J-Lo, P. Diddy and Wyclef Jean, in jogging pants and a baggy “I Love NY” shirt. Ironically, my mother has never been a go-to-the-gym type of person. Matter of fact, she hates treadmills and can’t stand lifting weights. So what is this fitness routine that wakes my siblings and me up in the morning with sounds of Shakira and constant stomping? It’s called Zumba—and in addition to taking over my home, it’s taken over the world.

Zumba fuses dancing and cardio moves into fun-filled training, which combines Latin, hip-hop and reggaeton music. “Zumba makes me happy and gets me excited. It’s about fitness and having fun,” my mother says with excitement. “I bought the DVDs after having a friend recommend them to me.”  

In the mid ’90s, Columbian choreographer Beto Perez developed the genre by accident. One afternoon, on his way to teach a fitness class, Perez forgot to take his music CDs. But he improvised by using salsa and Latin mixes for his steps. The class became an instant hit and one of the most popular classes taught at the fitness center where Perez worked.  Wanting to expand on this success in his native Columbia, Perez introduced the class to America, hoping that the routine would catch on with others.  

In 1999, two businessmen approached Perez with the idea of expanding Zumba by adapting it to a DVD format. Within a few years, hundreds of thousands of Zumba DVDs were being sold worldwide. Now Zumba is taught in countries like Japan, Mexico and Italy. Also, courses are offered nationwide at YMCAs, churches, gyms and dance schools like New York City’s Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

“Zumba is energizing. You leave the class completely euphoric, like you left an enormous party and had a great time,” says Elyse Davidson, a Zumba instructor who teaches at New York Sports Club. Calling it a party is no understatement. Classes are always packed with people of all ages ready to have a good time while burning fat to the tune of 500–700 calories per hour. “A lot of people don’t like to exercise. Everyone knows you’re supposed to exercise in order to live a healthy life, but it’s not that easy,” says Davidson.  “I hated the treadmill; it’s boring. So when you find a class that’s exciting, you can’t go wrong.”
FYI: But don’t be fooled by the myth that doing cardio is all you need—don’t forget about strength training.

To learn more about Zumba, find a class in your area or by the DVD, visit