The Live Healthy program offers free classes

Now that winter is behind us, we hope, what could be better than finally embarking upon those new year’s resolutions like “getting healthy and fit”?

Last week in Ocean Hill, local residents sweated a little while their heart rates went up. They were moving to energetic Afro-Caribbean drumming and muscle toning while learning dance steps lead by staff from Balanta Fitness.

Balanta Fitness founder is Marcelle Williams whose deep roots in Trinidad include a musical family who he traveled throughout the Caribbean with, as they performed. He brings the vibe from the islands to his fitness workouts.

Central Brooklyn residents were enjoying an introduction to the exercise classes, in this case Afro-Caribbean dance. But other cardio classes of the Live Healthy program include: zumba, cardio boxing, and total body conditioning, as well as yoga and other classes. The cafeteria turned gym of CAMBA Beacon271 in Ocean Hill, the community center based in a school building, was filled with laughter as participants went through their calorie-burning paces.

This is the second year that EmblemHealth is sponsoring a spectrum of get-fit Live Healthy classes in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens in collaboration with the Greater Brooklyn Health Coalition/CAMBA.

Nine different exercise, nutrition, or living healthy classes are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays, through July 24 at I.S. 271, 1137 Herkimer Street (corner of Saratoga) from 6:30-7:30 p.m. A list of all locations, classes and on-line registration is at:

After joining the class at the launch of this year’s Live Health program, Antiguan-native Carolie Feracho, a regular since 2012, commented, “I like that I can come home and exercise. I used to work out in Chinatown, but I didn’t feel comfortable being all sweaty and having to come home on the subway.”

Her friend Robin Stephens participated last year and added that the classes “were just awesome.” She elaborated, “I enjoyed myself. I was in great company and had more energy. And it jumpstarted me on eating healthy.”

Denise Bethea participated in Live Healthy last year and reports that she lost 30 pounds over the year. “Everyone is very friendly,” she says, “Everyone encourages one another.”

This year the program continues in Flatbush and Ocean Hill, Central Brooklyn and Manhattan Chinatown and expands to Jackson Heights, Queens and Washington Heights/Inwood.

Also, at the launch event, Dawn Skeete, owner of Brooklyn’s Jamaica Grill/Farm Foods, whose free cooking (and eating) demonstrations were a big hit last year, gave a few pointers.

EmblemHealth’s David Flemister reminded everyone, “Getting healthy doesn’t happen in one giant leap, you have to take it one step at a time. This program is about helping people take small steps to stay healthy, get well and live better.”

Rounding out the program, local community and elected leaders symbolically “cut the ribbon” on the upcoming year of classes and encouraged residents to create healthier lifestyles as all celebrated the free fitness classes provided by the collaborating organizations in these communities.

GBHC/CAMBA’s Marjorie Momplaisir-Ellis commented, “Your health should not be determined by the zip code where you reside, yet there are huge health disparities that are based on the communities in which people live.” The Live Healthy program is trying to address these inequities.

Classes began on March 18 and are free and open to all. For a full 2014 class schedule and registration, visit

More from Around NYC