Dance with the Doctor for the perfect blend of fun, cardio and health tips

If Dr. Barry Gritz wasn’t with the patient, he would probably have taken action — not in the middle of the dance floor, but in the classroom.

The psychiatrist, who has practiced in Houston for more than three decades, is also a Zumba instructor. For the past five years, he has been teaching Latin dance-inspired cardio classes.

Gritz takes classes at four different gyms nearly every day of the week. He is also in charge of the Aqua Zumba course. Imagine water aerobics with beats.

Grooving for melodies is just his passion – and always has been.

“If you go to a dance club and see someone dancing alone — that’s me,” Gritz said with a laugh.

Teaching Zumba gave him a whole new venue—and an entire room of partners.

“I love this because I can do what I love to do – which is dancing,” he said. “I’m also a lecturer. I love education. It allows me to have both.”

More recently, Gritz has further combined his passion with “Dancing with Health Doctors.”

Dancing with the Doctor combines the cardio of Zumba with an informative wellness class. It is available on the second Tuesday of each month at 8:00 AM at Clark Park, 9710 Clark Road, North Houston.

The next meeting is Tuesday, June 13th.

Zumba and education meet emotional and mental health in this course offered by Memorial Herman Community Welfare, which aims to build healthier communities.

Combining cardio with content-packed classes, these classes are held every second Tuesday of the month at 8:00 AM at Clark Park, 9710 Clark Road, North Houston. The next dance with the doctor is Tuesday, June 13th.

“It’s the most unique — it’s a perfect fusion,” says Gritz. “What I’m advocating in terms of psychology and Zumba is health. There are really parallels.”

Isabel Vázquez said the lessons were fun and that she liked Gritz’s music choices.

“The energy and friendliness of the doctor made it fun and special,” she said.

Josefina Sandoval says dancing with her doctor in the morning helps her stay healthy. She advises others to sign up.

“These classes help reduce stress and keep us healthy, besides being fun,” she said.

Dancing with the Doctor is the latest addition to Community Benefit Corp.’s work at Clark Park, which focuses on making green spaces a safe place for the community to enjoy.

It began in 2018, when data from the nearby Burbank Middle School showed high rates of prediabetes among students, said Carol Parrett, senior vice president and chief community health officer for the health care system.

The company asked community members why the kids weren’t exercising — and parents noticed there were no sidewalks in the park and felt unsafe.

“That’s where we need to focus,” Parrett said. “Our work needs to focus on the things that communities feel are critical to advancing their well-being.”

The group has four intersecting pillars — access to healthcare, healthy food, exercise and emotional well-being — all of which target the underinsured and uninsured, Parrett said.

In 2019, the organization partnered with the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department to renovate the basketball court and build a new youth soccer field in Clark Park.

Improving community green spaces is a key part of the equation, she said.

“Parks are only great when people use them,” she said. “Just because you have green space in the area doesn’t mean it’s going to be used if the community doesn’t feel safe there.”

Updating the facility alone isn’t enough to guarantee neighbors will use the space, Parrett said. Developing projects within the park will be key.

This is how the StepHealthy Walking Club was launched. Walking with doctors, who join groups and discuss health topics, is also added to the product.

Additionally, Memorial Hermann developed the StepHealthy Connects program to help local residents become professional group fitness trainers.

Parrett explained that the more ownership that community members have of their parks, the better. For example, a walking club led to a cleanup.

“We saw a lot of social connection, and pride in the park,” Parrett said. “One thing is built on another.”

Dancing with the Doctor is part of that evolution — and has become a popular product.

“Exercise is medicine,” Parrett said. “People are finding that exercise really helps with stress and anxiety.” Both are on the rise in the wake of the pandemic, she added.

A fun Zumba class outdoors in the sun “feels like a natural extension of what we’re already doing,” Parrett said.

She added that finding the right doctor to be the star of the show was accidental.

“He’s a miracle,” Parrett said. “He’s not your average day-to-day psychiatrist. He’s really committed to it.”

The first hour of class was all about exercise, Gritz said. He told attendees not to worry if they don’t master footwork.

“As long as you’re moving and slotting,” he told them.

Gritz keeps the music alive by spinning it between Colombian cumbia and rock, salsa and Bollywood, hip-hop and reggae.

“Trust me — Zumba, it’s a party,” he said. “That’s what it is, a dance party. But with Zumba, it’s like you’re at a party and you’re working out.”

For the second half of the course, Gritz focuses on a health topic. Each month features a different theme such as anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder and postpartum issues.

Gritz’s presentation focused on managing emotional health. He teaches self-care techniques and takes the time to answer questions.

“I like to think of myself as an educator,” he said. “If you can treat people with education and entertainment, that’s a good thing.”

Zumba personally helped him. “For me, it’s a stress reliever,” says Gritz. “Exercise makes you feel good.”

And in Clark Park, when he saw the laughter from the crowd and heard the laughter, he knew that others benefited from Zumba too.

He added that music and exercise can really improve mood and reduce stress.

“It is our responsibility to move the spoils,” he said.

Peyton is a freelance writer based in Houston.

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