Dance with a doctor for the perfect fusion of fun, cardio, and wellness tips.

If Dr. Barry Gritz isn’t with a patient, chances are he’s moving, not in the middle of a dance floor, but in front of a class.

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

Gritz leads a class almost every day of the week at four different gyms. He also runs Aqua Zumba courses. Imagine water aerobics with a beat.

Dancing to the beat of a tune is simply her passion, and always has been.

“If you ever went to a dance club and saw a guy dancing by himself, that was me,” Gritz said with a laugh.

Teaching Zumba gave him a whole new venue and a room full of dance partners.

“I love this, because I get to do what I like to do, and that’s dance,” she said. “I am also a speaker. I love to educate. This allows me to do both.”

Recently, Gritz further blended his passions with “Dancing with a Doc for Wellness.”

Dancing with a Doc combines cardio through Zumba with a health briefing. Offered at 8 am on the second Tuesday of the month at Clark Park, 9710 Clark Road, in North Houston.

The next session is Tuesday, June 13.

Zumba meets education with emotional and mental health in this course offered by Memorial Hermann’s Community Benefit Corp., whose goal is to build healthier communities.

The sessions, which combine cardio with a briefing, are offered at 8 am on the second Tuesday of the month at Clark Park, 9710 Clark Road, in North Houston. The next Dancing with a Doc is Tuesday, June 13.

“This is the most unique, it’s a perfect fusion,” Gritz said. “What I am promoting in both psychology and Zumba is health. There really is a parallel.”

Isabel Vázquez said that the sessions are entertaining and she enjoys Gritz’s musical selections.

“The energy and kindness of the doctor makes it fun and special,” he said.

Josefina Sandoval said exercising in the morning with Dancing with a Doc helps her stay in shape. She recommends that others sign up.

“The classes help reduce stress and keep us healthy, as well as being a lot of fun,” she said.

Dancing with a Doc is the latest addition to Community Benefit Corp.’s work in Clark Park, which is focused on making green space a safe place for the community to enjoy.

It started in 2018, when data from nearby Burbank Middle School revealed a high incidence of prediabetes in students, said Carol Paret, senior vice president and director of community health for the health care system.

The corporation asked community members why kids weren’t getting exercise, and parents noted the lack of sidewalks and the feeling of insecurity in the park.

“That’s where we needed to focus,” Paret said. “Our work must focus on what the community considers important in advancing their health.”

The organization has four intersecting pillars: access to health care, healthy food, exercise and emotional well-being, all geared toward people who are underinsured or uninsured, Paret 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 at Clark Park.

Making improvements to neighborhood green spaces is a critical part of the equation, he said.

“Parks are only great if people use them,” he said. “And just because there is green space in the area doesn’t mean it will be used, if the community doesn’t feel safe there.”

Upgrading the facility alone wasn’t enough to ensure neighbors used the space, Paret said. Developing programs in the park would be the key.

That’s how the StepHealthy walking clubs were launched. Walk With a Doc, where a doctor joins the group and discusses health topics, was also added to the offerings.

Additionally, Memorial Hermann developed the StepHealthy Connects program, which helps area residents become professional group fitness instructors.

The more community members take ownership of their parks, the better, Paret explained. For example, walking clubs have spawned cleanup events.

“We’ve seen a lot of social connection as well as pride in the parks,” Paret said. “One thing is built on another and another.”

Dancing with a Doc is part of that evolution and has become a popular offering.

“Exercise is medicine,” Paret said. “People find that exercise really helps with stress and anxiety.” And both were on the upswing after the pandemic, he added.

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