On August 27, EmblemHealth, Queens Community House and the Jackson Heights Green Alliance hosted a free zumba class on the 78th Street Plaza in Jackson Heights to celebrate a successful summer season of free fitness and cooking classes. While this event marked the closing weeks at this outdoor space, Cooking Demos, Zumba, Yoga and Cardio-Fitness will continue through the end of the year at Renaissance Charter School.

The Zumba class was part of a citywide initiative that helps local residents take small steps to improve their health and wellness through free fitness classes and cooking demonstrations. The event was a fun and festive outdoor celebration with participation from several local partners and the offices of NYC Councilmember Dromm, NYS Senator Peralta and NYS Assemblyman DenDekker. Program participants spoke about their experiences, and instructors discussed upcoming classes. The highlight was a Zumba dance party that included over 50 participants, a number of them joining in after hearing the music on the Plaza.

This event and the larger citywide effort in seven communities throughout New York are part of EmblemHealth’s overall Small Steps initiative, which highlights the company’s commitment to making healthier living more accessible through small steps, right in the neighborhood. Understanding that change doesn’t happen overnight and doesn’t happen alone, EmblemHealth has partnered with ten nonprofits to offer continuous fitness classes and cooking demos to communities that lack access to more traditional wellness resources. The classes are offered in local schools, churches, and community centers that have generously agreed to open their doors when their spaces are not otherwise in use.

EmblemHealth is helping the community in many ways.

EmblemHealth is helping the community in many ways.

The program started in two neighborhoods and has grown to seven locations around the city— Flatbush, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Canarsie, Jackson Heights, Chinatown, Staten Island and Washington Heights/Inwood. New York City residents can now choose from 16 free classes each week across these seven neighborhoods. The 2014 program boasted over three thousand participants and final 2015 results are expected to exceed that number.

“The instructors who teach these classes are skilled in everything from Zumba to Yoga. Our participants range in age and fitness levels and everyone enjoys a fun workout,» said Dave Mahder, EmblemHealth Vice President, Marketing & Communications. “We are gratified at the community’s enthusiastic response to the program.”

Anna Dioguardi Moyano, Director of Organizing and Community Development at Queens Community House, reflected, “We loved bringing free fitness and cooking demonstrations outdoors again this summer. Tonight’s Zumba class and party was an opportunity for neighbors of all ages to join together in an activity that is both fun and good for one’s well-being.”

Luz Janet Mazuera, Jackson Heights program participant, agreed. “This is an excellent program for our community. Many of us are looking for low-cost ways to stay active and healthy. With this program, the classes are free and the instructors are of amazing quality.”

Dudley Stewart, President of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance, also expressed his enthusiasm. “The Jackson Heights Green Alliance is delighted to partner with Queens Community House and EmblemHealth on the Live Healthy program once again. We had a successful first year, where many neighborhood residents benefited from the Live Healthy program, and the JHGA is proud to be part of the ongoing efforts to bring quality, free health education and exercise classes to the Jackson Heights Community.”

Classes are free and open to all. For a full 2015 class schedule through the end of the year, visit www.emblemhealthlivehealthy.com.