Maria Ramirez never realized she would become hooked on something healthy for her: Zumba. That was until she attended a free class as part of the The Health Collaborative’s “Healthy Me, Healthy We” fitness program. “I couldn’t even move when I first started. It was hard for me to keep up, “ explained Ramirez. “But, I didn’t give up because I knew my kids were watching to see if I could begin living a healthy lifestyle.” Two dress sizes later, Ramirez is attending a weekly Zumba class in her neighborhood. In 2015-2016, The Health Collaborative offers 20 locations of free Zumba and other fitness programs, the same day and time each week. “The consistency of having classes meet at the same time and location each week is one way to help our families set their own fitness schedule,” said Elizabeth Lutz, Executive Director of The Health Collaborative. “We are seeing families adopt a healthy lifestyle and they are coming back and want even more fitness opportunities.” Last year, in 2014-2015, more than 7,400 women, men and children participated in one of the free fitness classes. Eighty-two percent of the fitness participants are over the age of 25 and eight-two percent were women. The Health Collaborative is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the health status of Bexar County through collaboration. The program focus areas are in obesity prevention, youth mental health, health literacy and access to health care. “We encourage cross collaboration to ensure that our families are connected with the valuable assets that our community has to offer,” says Lutz. “The Community Health Portal is one of the tools for immediate information to programs, services and care.” The SA Bridge app was born from the portal. Once you download the free app onto your smart phone, it provides a local directory of health resources using an enhanced resource map. It also includes health facts and other resources. (Click here to download on iTunes, and here to download on Google Play.) Fitness is one of the most searched items on the app. And, the “Health Me, Healthy We” fitness program is the only robust, free fitness program in San Antonio and Bexar County. Since 2011, more nearly 29,000 parents, grandparents and children have participated in Zumba or other fitness classes. “The target group for our program are people seeing to improve their health by adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes daily exercise and healthy eating,” adds Lutz. “They are also becoming a champion of change for their entire family.” Maria Ramirez is that champion of change for her daughters. They now join her at the weekly Zumba classes. “My kids used to stay home to watch television or play on their game devices,” says Ramirez. “Now, they happily join and I’m proud and hope they’ll avoid the weight and health issues I have battled my entire life.” To find times and locations of the 20 free fitness classes, call The Health Collaborative at 210.481.2573.