Ana Boyd often takes a short break during the one-hour workout session inside the St. Andrews Center.
The cardiovascular exercises sometimes are too much for the 59-year-old, who said she hasn't been in an aerobics class since she left El Salvador 12 years ago.
"In El Salvador, I would go to the gym every day after work," Mrs. Boyd said. "Ever since I moved here (to the United States) ... I've gained about 40 pounds."
She hopes to melt away some of those pounds with the Sisters Together: Move More, Eat Better program of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga. The class is part of a seven-week pilot program to address obesity and diabetes rates in the Hispanic population.
"The overall goal is to encourage and increase physical movement and better nutrition practices," said Nicole Coker, health programs coordinator for Sisters Together.
In 2006, the Urban League implemented a 12-week program for black women that included twice-a-week aerobics classes as well as cooking demonstrations and giveaways.
* What: Sisters Together: Move More, Eat Better
* When: 4-5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays
* Where: St. Andrews Center, 1918 Union Ave.
* Cost: Free
* Information: 423-756-1762, ext. 11
Prevalence of obesity
* Non-Hispanic blacks: 35.7 percent
* Hispanics: 28.7 percent
* Non-Hispanic whites: 23.7 percent
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
"Considering the fact that Latino women are facing similar obesity rates as African-American women, the Urban League decided to branch out to the Latino community," Ms. Coker said.
Nationwide, blacks had a 51 percent higher prevalence of obesity, and Hispanics had a 21 percent higher obesity prevalence compared with whites from 2006 to 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The free classes in Sisters Together are led by Juan Carlos Gonzáles, a trainer originally from Peru. On a recent Thursday evening, Mr. Gonzáles encouraged a group of women from countries ranging from Puerto Rico to Mexico and Guatemala with upbeat music and phrases in Spanish.
"Quiero verlas sudar (I want to see you sweat)," he told the women.
María Pérez, a native of Guatemala who is eight months pregnant, modified the movements according to what she could do.
"I like to exercise," she said, and "I get bored at home."
"The goal is to plant a seed so, after the program is over, they can find places where they can do physical activities and it doesn't have to be a gym," Mr. Gonzáles said. "It can be as simple as walking instead of sitting in front of the television."
Although the class has attracted a small group of women, Ms. Coker said transportation was a challenge they didn't anticipate. Some women find it hard to find a ride to the classes, she said.
"We've mainly faced transportation barriers but, other than that, I feel there's a lot of interest and enthusiasm," she said. "If it generates more interest, I would love to see it expand."
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