Forget running — I tried this 30-minute Zumba workout for my daily cardio instead

Woman doing a dance workout at home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A few months ago, I decided to swap my usual treadmill runs for a week’s worth of Zumba classes. Despite my inexperience with the dance-fitness hybrid, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I picked up the choreography while testing my endurance in the process. 

And it’s easy to see why Zumba has remained popular since its inception over two decades ago. Plus, Zumba recently launched an app giving users access to an extensive on-demand library of classes that can be done anywhere, anytime.

My at-home workouts generally consist of resistance training with my adjustable dumbbells, but news of the Zumba app inspired me to skip the weights one day and try this 30-minute Zumba workout instead. It was fun, got my heart racing, but it takes some practice to get the steps. 

How to do this 30-minute beginners Zumba workout

Zumba's foundation was laid in 2001 when the brand launched its first dance workouts designed by Colombian dancer Beto Pérez. It blends Latin dance into an interval-based, full-body cardiovascular workout. 

But the secret to its success has always been that it is actually a lot of fun too. This makes it easier to stick to, and it's not a million miles away from the focus of Richard Simmons' classes from the early 90s. 

For this specific routine, led by official Zumba instructors, you don't need to have any experience with the brand's dance-inspired moves, as the instructors demonstrate every exercise for you to follow along with. 

Most Zumba workouts run up to an hour, so this 30-minute routine is ideal if you're just starting. Plus, you won't need any equipment — all you need is some space to move, and optionally, a yoga mat for support. 

Excited for the return to my dancing days, I laced up my sneakers and pressed play. Here’s what I found after trying this Zumba mini-workout.  

The movements were quick and complex

While I’ve done Zumba before, I’m far from an expert. This was painfully obvious when I got to one of the salsa sections of the workout where I struggled to keep up. 

Eventually, I got the hang of the choreography, but the combination was almost over by the time I figured things out. In hindsight, I should have replayed the challenging sections so I could practice the steps more.

One of the advantages of taking pre-recorded classes is the ability to do just that, so don’t be afraid to rewind and rehearse the movements if you’re a true Zumba beginner. You’ll get the most out of your workout that way. 

There wasn't a lot of time to rest

You might think a beginner Zumba workout would be a bit slower-paced than standard classes, with more rest time built in. But other than an official break at the 20-minute mark, all you get is a few seconds between songs. 

Since I’m used to vigorous cardio, the lack of downtime wasn’t an issue for me. If you’re just starting to exercise regularly, however, you may need to take one or two extended breaks throughout the workout. 

Of course, the option to pause for a few moments is another major advantage to following pre-recorded fitness routines. Plus, it's important to do what feels right for your body at the time, so it's absolutely fine to take a breather if you need it. 

It raised my heart rate

During my first Zumba attempts, I was really surprised that my Apple Watch would clock my heart rate at a relatively high 150 beats per minute (bpm), which was almost the same as an elliptical machine workout. 

This class even broke that ceiling, topping out at 163 bpm at points. That level is more usual in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, and although Zumba can be rigorous, I wasn't expecting advanced cardio-level heart rates. 

Again, this is something to keep in mind if you’re trying Zumba for the first time, or if you’ve just started a fitness routine. Listen to your body, and be sure to take breaks throughout the workout as needed.

It wasn't really beginner friendly

Considering the quick pace between moves, lack of rest time, and the fact it elicits such a high heart rate, I feel that calling it a beginner workout isn't really fair, especially if you're a complete newcomer. 

It's better suited to anyone who's already done some Zumba classes or has an established cardio routine in place. But that doesn't mean you should skip it entirely if you're just starting out. 

After all, practice makes progress, and if you’ve never taken a class before, a guide like this Zumba Tutorial for Beginners on YouTube takes you through most of the essential moves you'll need to know. 

Plus, starting with less practice makes it easier to track your progress, as you can note the "rate of perceived exertion" of each session. Even if you don't choose to go that route, the workout is a lot of fun and a good way to move your body without equipment.

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Jennifer Rizzuto

Jennifer Rizzuto is a freelance writer and certified personal trainer based in Long Island, NY. She covers various fitness-related topics and reviews for Tom's Guide. She also writes sketch comedy and short films, and performs frequently as an actor, singer, and improviser. When she's not writing, working out, or performing, you'll find her trying to convince her husband to get a dog.