Try This: Zumba Class

By Chris Roussos

I have had incredible fitness experiences throughout my athletic career. And yes, I am more fit than I have ever been in my working life—which is just one of the perks of working in the health and fitness industry. Mindset, movement, nourishment and regeneration matter, which is why I often say that when I was leading medical companies, I thought I was in the business of health care. But now, as a leader of a health and fitness brand, I know I am in the business of health care.

What has surprised me the most about stepping in to lead this game-changing company is how much the “softer” side of fitness impacts lasting results. Meaning—the results we achieve in our health and fitness depend on choosing the right workout for you, doing it consistently and then backing it up with productive lifestyle choices that support the goal.

The missing pillar

In the medical and fitness industries, we have long promoted exercise and diet as a means to achieving and sustaining health. But until recently, there hasn’t been much research into—or application of—the principles of mindset and regeneration. And by regeneration, I mean the aspects of life that add energy back into our physiology and psychology—e.g., rest, recovery and relationships. We know through research that the relationships we have impact our life experience. This is also true for the fitness experience. Having “family” to cheer you on, experts or mentors to guide you, and friends to celebrate you along the way is priceless and critical to your success.

I can sincerely say that I did not quite understand the phenomenon that is group training, group fitness, group exercise or what we call GX24 before I became CEO at 24 Hour Fitness. For me, training gives me a chance to go inward, to refine my thinking and to challenge my physiology. Although I am seen as an outgoing, extroverted leader, in the domain of fitness, I am a true introvert. I am a disciplined solo athlete and log miles and hours before dawn. I don’t shy away from any sort of social physical challenge, whether that’s playing a pickup game with my kids, training with a colleague, or participating in a full-out group competitive challenge such as an obstacle course like a Spartan Race.

But there is nothing quite like sweating toward your individual health and fitness goals surrounded by people, music and motivation. You can do moves that you never even knew you could do. I got a taste of this experience in GX24 classes in the last few months, so I was delighted to be challenged to try Zumba—and just in time for our Party in Pink™ Zumbathon® Charity Events in our studios nationwide.

Zumba is the class that started the dance-fitness revolution and changed the way fitness enthusiasts looked at a “workout” forever. It is a workout that was designed for everyone and perfect for every body! (good to know). Each Zumba class is designed to bring people together to sweat it on, taking the “work” out of workout by mixing low-intensity and high-intensity moves for an interval-style, calorie-burning dance fitness party. You don’t have to be in shape to do Zumba; you just need to show up.

Pre-class jitters

Yes, I had them. Zumba remains one of the hottest group fitness classes to date. Everyone told me it would be fun, energetic and I’d feel amazing. Looking through the studio window, it looked that way—but whether I would be able to keep up and let go of my self-consciousness remained to be seen. Here’s what I learned.

Dress for success: This is not a running class, so running shoes were not my friend—especially for some of the lateral patterns that layer into the choreography. A cross-training shoe and loose clothing is ideal to be comfortable. That said, one of the fun things about the Zumba community is the all-out diversity, inclusivity and full freedom of expression. Wear what you want, but wear what will let you move well.

Bring your own party: While I like solo workouts, going to class is the perfect time to bring a friend to experience the class with you, especially if dancing is not your first language, either. It was great to have a friend with me so we could laugh together.

Hey, hey Teacher: Introduce yourself to your instructor so he or she knows you are new. This will guarantee that he or she will at least have eyes on you and guide you, especially if you are feeling worried about keeping up during the class, let alone having fun.

Find your groove: The goal is to get a workout, and this is possible even if you haven’t mastered every dance move. Go at your own pace, but do go for it or, as they say, work the gifts your mama gave you and just move your body. Even if that means going full out in moves that you don’t know—you’ll maximize your range of motion and get your sweat on.

Group benefits

Being surrounded by others who are training with you, experiencing the same vibe, breathing at the same pace, listening to the same rhythm and music, and moving together entrains and generates a shared and memorable experience, which builds connection to those around you.

In the last decade, research has shown that people who train in groups get more health benefits than those who train in a solo workout. The studies can be grouped into three aspects: 1) increased health benefits such as mental health as measured by perceived stress levels and quality of life — mental, physical and emotional, 2) improved performance and reduction of pain, and quality of life, and 3) social bonding, social interactions and exercise adherence. 

Research aside, there is a lot to be said to having fun while you get a sweat on, meet new friends and learn some new moves.


I love workouts, but if I didn’t, I think I would still love Zumba. The fun factor, the friend factor and the funk factor just level up the fitness experience and add another dimension to the benefits and results you can get by coming to a class at the gym. Since I took a class, I can’t quite get the music or the moves out of my head. That’s a good thing, and I think you should try Zumba, too!

Video credit: Tom Casey,
Photo credit: Zumba; Chris Roussos


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Chris Roussos

Chris Roussos is CEO of 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. and leads the company in changing lives through fitness. He has served as CEO, President or COO for healthcare services companies for more than 15 years, including Epic Health Services, the first-ever pediatric continuum of care for medically fragile children; Harden Healthcare, a post-acute healthcare services company; and Orthodontic Centers of America (OCA). Roussos previously held management positons at PepsiCo and Rubbermaid, and served for 11 years in the U.S. Army.