Health & Fitness

Dance, bike, walk at hospital fitness programs

Moving: Dadeland Mall Walkers walk three times a week in free program conducted by Baptist Health.
Moving: Dadeland Mall Walkers walk three times a week in free program conducted by Baptist Health. Miami Herald File Photo

Whether you like dancing, walking or want to stay fit during your pregnancy, hospitals across South Florida offer group fitness classes that cater to different ages, fitness levels and interests. All these classes are open to the community, and several of the classes are free of charge.

Cycling for Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, degenerative neurological disorder that affects motor control and can lead to tremors and slow physical movement. Research from the Cleveland Clinic has shown symptoms are reduced when Parkinson’s patients ride a tandem bicycle at 80 to 90 revolutions per minute.

In early January, the University of Miami Health System launched Cycling for Parkinson’s, a 12-week pilot program that uses stationary bikes to keep Parkinson’s patients active.

Brittany Dixson, a health and fitness specialist at the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center, runs the Cycling for Parkinson’s program. She ran a similar program for Parkinson’s patients at the YMCA of Central Florida.

The cycling program is now open to Parkinson’s patients and their caregivers. Dixson hopes the program will expand to benefit more patients.

“It’s not just that they’re going to feel better physically, they’re going to see an improvement in their symptoms,” she said.

Jose Sanchez, 63, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about a year and a half ago. His symptoms started with a dragging feeling in his right foot, then a tremble in his right hand and trouble sleeping.

“I felt like I had no control over my body,” he said. “I felt distressed and depressed.”

Sanchez has kept his symptoms under control by being physically active, including working out in the cycling program.

“It’s a fantastic program. I want to do it for as long as I can,” he said. “It helps with coordination.”

The Cycling for Parkinson’s classes take place from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. The classes are free.

For information, contact the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center at (305) 243-7600.

Hot yoga

Is hot yoga safe? Does it provide cardiovascular benefits to the body? Dr. Carlos Zamora, director of the sports cardiology program at Mount Sinai Medical Center, is working on a study to find out.

Zamora said a few of his patients have asked if hot yoga is safe.

Zamora is looking for 20 healthy people who have never done hot yoga before to participate in the study. Participants must be 18 and older. The hot yoga classes will take place twice a week for an hour and a half at the Om’eychae Fitness and Wellness Center in Hallandale Beach.

Before the study begins, Zamora will take participants’ baseline measures, including blood pressure, weight and heart rate. Participants will have sensors attached to one finger on each hand, and a machine will measure their vascular function. The study lasts 16 weeks.

Zamora doesn’t expect to see dramatic changes, but he said hot yoga could potentially lower blood pressure and improve blood circulation.

“If we do see changes, then we’ll have other studies to pinpoint exact mechanism,” he said. “I just want to make sure it’s safe, that it doesn’t do the opposite of what we want, and then evaluate if patients with hypertension can get an extra benefit.”

For more information on the study, contact the research office at (305) 674-2162.

Mall Walkers program

One loop around the Pembroke Lakes Mall is an approximately two-mile walk. Grab a resistance band for strength training and you’ve got a complete workout in a place that can be more fun than the gym.

Memorial Hospital West has offered a mall walking program for more than 15 years. Baptist Health also offers several walking programs, including groups that meet from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Dadeland Mall in Kendall and Coral Square Mall in Coral Springs. For those who prefer evening hours, walkers meet at West Kendall Baptist Hospital from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Memorial’s started as an “outreach program to get seniors to exercise and have a social aspect to their exercise in a protected, air-conditioned environment,” said Dr. Rob Herzog, director of fitness and sports medicine at Memorial.

The program has evolved recently to include strength and flexibility training. Herzog said the fitness trainers realized the walkers needed more than cardiovascular exercise as they aged.

“The first thing to go is strength and flexibility, and then it only gets worse,” Herzog said. “We focus on flexibility and strength, especially in the lower body. That’s the limiting factor in a lot of seniors.”

The program’s objective is to give seniors confidence in their physical abilities so they can live independently.

“The problem is that we think we’re doing ourselves a favor by not using normal muscles and moving slowly,” Herzog said. “We want to get them moving more, working on flexibility and hip strength more. They notice they start to feel more comfortable and regain strength, balance and confidence.”

People of all ages are welcome to the Memorial and Baptist programs, which are free. Memorial’s takes place from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

For more information, contact the Memorial Hospital West Fitness Center at (954) 844-7125 or Baptist Health at or call 786-467-5680.

Nia cardio dance class

Nia is a cardio group fitness class that incorporates dance, martial arts and healing arts. Participants dance to eclectic music on bare feet. The choreography is based on 52 moves that exercise every joint and muscle group in the body.

Barbara Gilbertson of Fort Lauderdale has been taking Nia classes for about three years. She started taking the class in Pompano, but switched when she heard they were being offered at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale.

“When I wake up, I feel a little stiff,” she said. “This class is low-impact, but you sweat and get your heart rate up. It makes you feel good and you’re ready to start the day.”

Gayle Strogen, a fitness instructor, teaches Nia at Holy Cross Hospital. She guides participants through exercises for everything — flexibility, cardiovascular health, agility, strength and stability.

“It’s a healthy and thoughtful form of exercise,” Strogen said. “The moves are expressive and fluid. It’s not heavily choreographed. The primary points of Nia are sensation and the joy of movement.”

The class ranges from martial arts to jazz dancing to yoga.

“It’s fun, and you dance and exercise to good music,” Gilbertson said.

The class is offered at 10 a.m. Wednesdays at the Zacariah Family Wellness Pavilion at Holy Cross Hospital, 4725 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. The class costs $5 for members of the wellness pavilion and $10 for nonmembers.

For more information, contact the Zacariah Family Wellness Pavilion at (954) 229-7950.

Prenatal yoga

Carolina Sanchez had her first baby in early December 2014. She participated in Baptist Hospital’s prenatal yoga classes since she was eight weeks’ pregnant

“My doctor suggested I try prenatal yoga for exercise,” she said. “I wanted to do something relaxing during my pregnancy and to meet other mothers.”

Marit Zadrozny, a yoga instructor with Baptist Health’s Community Exercise Program, leads the prenatal yoga classes. She focuses on the mother’s overall well being during pregnancy and on preparing for labor.

“The first element I always address about well being is awareness,” she said. “We work on awareness of body so they don’t hurt themselves taking care of the baby.”

Zadrozny works on flexibility and strength for different parts of the body, like strengthening the shoulders and back to prepare for carrying a baby and working on hip flexibility to prepare for labor. She also does breathing exercises.

Zadrozny’s yoga class is comprehensive, which means expectant mothers can take the class at any point during their pregnancy.

“I fine-tune the program to not be a hindrance in any stage of pregnancy,” Zadrozny said. “You can come the first day of pregnancy or the last day. It’s gentle, but they leave the class feeling good.”

Classes are held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday mornings at the Victor E. Clarke Education Center at South Miami Hospital. The classes are free of charge. Call (786) 467-5680.



Joan Chrissos

Maru Antunano


Juan Lopez


Kristina Corrales


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