Warmer weather, receding ice and fitness goals can mean a fresh start with spring after winter hibernation.

This month a host of free health and wellness classes, hosted by a trained lifestyle change coach is providing another opportunity to focus on wellness. The classes, offered through the grassroots, community group Crow Wing Energized, use the National Diabetes Prevention Program to assist participants in losing weight with healthy eating and increasing activity. For the course, 16 sessions are offered over six months, with six monthly follow-up sessions for the remainder of the year.

The one-hour weekly classes use the National Diabetes Prevention Program, a community-based, lifestyle change program. The program works with diet and moderate exercise for a goal of a 5-7 percent weight loss (usually about 10 -15 pounds), which can provide significant health benefits including bringing blood sugar levels to a healthy range. One out of 3 people currently have prediabetes, but 9 out of 10 times people don't know they have it, which amounts to about 79 million people, Crow Wing Energized reported.

The course includes becoming a fat and calorie detective, healthy eating, being active, life balance, problem-solving, challenges with eating out, overcoming negative thoughts, jump-starting an activity plan, the key to independent success and managing stress.

The lifestyle coaches were asked what motivates them and what they hope people gain from the health classes. They responded by email.

"The thing that makes this course unique from other healthy weight programs is that it is a sustainable lifestyle way of eating and being physically active," lifestyle change coach Gail Smith stated. "All too often, folks can do something for a short while, but once they reach a goal, they revert back to old eating habits and the weight comes back."

Smith is a registered nurse and the lifestyle change coach for classes meeting at Crosslake Lutheran Church.

"Participants say they look at how they eat in a whole new way and are more conscious about choices. Preventing diabetes through a healthy weight is critical to saving major expenditures in medical care. The course has a strong base in science and is not the latest fad."

This year is Autumn Hunter's first time teaching a class as a lifestyle coach.

"But my reason is I just want to help people feel better," Hunter said. "I know what it's like to be in pain and to not have energy, so if I can help people feel better by watching their foods and helping to motivate people to do some form of exercise, and in turn those people feel better and are able to do more, I feel that's great!

"I feel like with spring it's the perfect time to start. We love to get outside in the spring and summer and are just able to do more. It's a great time to get a fresh start."

Lifestyle coach Joyce Mueller is a self-described nut for fitness and good nutrition. She said she wanted to participate in the lifestyle training to share her knowledge.

Mueller said she thinks the biggest difference for the people who come to the classes is learning from each other what works and what doesn't.

"Making new acquaintances, laughing, learning, sharing, becoming a sleuth when it comes to reading labels at the grocery store etc.," all make a difference Mueller stated.

"There is no time better than the present," she said about why it's a good time to start the journey for greater health and fitness and this is an opportunity to do it together.

"I believe we are turning a corner on our thinking about food," Mueller said. "We are demanding more fresh, raw and simple foods. It is so exciting for me to hear of how class participants lives and habits have changed. Old habits die hard, but it is never too late to try."

Free lifestyle change classes

• Essentia Health-Baxter Clinic, 6-7 p.m. starting March 20, large conference room, 15620 Edgewood Drive N., Brainerd.

• Essentia Health-Brainerd Clinic, 5-6 p.m. starting March 21, in meeting room A, 2024 S. Sixth St., Brainerd.

• Big Stone Therapies, 4-5 p.m., starting April 10, 15620 Edgewood Drive N., Baxter.

• Crosslake Lutheran Church, 10-11 a.m., starting April 17, 35960 County Highway 66, Crosslake.

Groups will meet with a trained instructor to help participants lose weight, eat healthier and increase physical activity. Classes are free, which is noted as a $429 value.

A Centers for Disease Control link to an assessment to see how at-risk an individual is for prediabetes may be found online at bit.ly/2lpbyA6 and registration for the lifestyle change classes along with more information is available at www.crowwingenergized.org.

For questions about the lifestyle change program, contact Cassie Carey at cassie.carey@essentiahealth.org or 218-828-7443.