I’ve always stuck out like a sore thumb in dance-inspired aerobics classes. Sure, I can shimmy enthusiastically, but it’s often in the opposite direction to everyone else. This atrocious sense of direction and my oversized limbs means I’m a little apprehensive about testing fitness phenomenon Zumba, which combines merengue, salsa and reggatron (reggatron?!).

The Zumba phenomenon began 10 years ago when Colombian aerobics instructor Alberto ‘Beto’ Perez turned up to teach a class, only to discover he’d forgotten his music. But Beto turned his lemons into lemonade by grabbing some local salsa and merengue tunes from his car and voila: Zumba has become the Tae-Bo of the late noughties. There are now thousands of instructors around the world, all of whom have trained in the ‘art’ by attending a one- or two-day workshop.

For my first taste of this Latin workout I conga down to Dubai Marina to learn Zumba at the slick Core Studio from English instructor Katie. I have to say, the hour flies by. We start with some basic moves for a bit of conditioning, then pace out some salsa and reggatron steps (which basically involve swaying in a squat position) before finishing with a routine. The routine incorporates salsa three-steps, a spot of shimmying and some twirling. Despite my two left feet, I manage to pick up the simple routine, and I notice near the end of the class that I’ve been smiling for about 20 minutes. Smiling while working out? No wonder Beto is now a millionaire – this stuff’s like catnip.

So how demanding is the workout? I do break out in a sweat and I feel energised by the end, although I’m sceptical of the claim that Zumba burns 500-plus calories an hour as I don’t feel any muscle strain afterwards. Having said that, I’m still a beginner; more confident Zumba-ists are likely to jump around more and dip deeper, giving their muscles a harder workout.
Zumba classes are held throughout the week at Core Studio in the Damac Waves Tower, Dubai Marina. Monthly memberships at the studio cost Dhs300; joining fee is Dhs200. See www.coredirection.com for more info.

The details
Origin: Colombia/Miami.
Calories burned: The official Zumba website (www.zumba.com) claims you’ll burn 600 to 1,000 per hour, although we’re a little sceptical.
Muscles worked: Glutes and legs (plus your abs, if you work your hips hard enough).
The benefits: Zumba routines feature a mix of fast and slow rhythms to provide interval training and an all-round cardio workout, plus resistance moves to tone the body while also burning fat.
Perfect for: People who get bored working out at the gym.