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In a move that illustrates how health-care facilities are evolving beyond their age-old mission of treating illness, the Petaluma Health Center has opened its new exercise facility to the general public.

This month, the health center began offering fitness classes to both patients and local residents. Offered at discount prices, the courses include two Zumba classes and two yoga classes, with more offerings on the horizon.

"We're going to be open to anyone in the community," said Luke Entrup, the health center's newly hired wellness program manager.

Entrup said other courses being considered include Tai Chi and Qi Gong, aerobics and 5Rhythms dance classes.

"We're going to start yoga and Zumba classes, but we're going to build many more classes," he said.

The Petaluma Health Center is one of the largest health care providers in southern Sonoma County, with 18,000 patients. Its new "movement room" is part of the center's new 53,000-square-foot facility, which is expected to serve some 35,000 southern Sonoma County and northern Marin County residents.

Fitness classes are part of the health center's wellness program, which is aimed at promoting healthy living and helping patients improve their condition while dealing with chronic disease such as diabetes.

Other health care providers in the county offer similar programs.

In west Santa Rosa, a health program for children called "Muevete!" is offered at the Southwest Community Health Center and the Roseland Children's Health Center, which are part of the Santa Rosa Community Health Centers.

The program meets once a week for six weeks and is geared toward children 10 to 18 who are struggling with their weight. Activities include Zumba, yoga, cooking lessons, tips on grocery shopping and other nutritional education.

Also at Southwest Community Health Center, a weekly group class called La Vida Dulce, Spanish for The Sweet Life, uses a casual party atmosphere as a model for diabetic management nutrition education.

More than 50 diabetic and pre-diabetic patients and their family members attend the class each week, sharing experiences with their illness and their lives in general. A long table is set with colorful, healthy, home-cooked food.

One ambitious wellness project currently in the design stages is a large medical fitness center for Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. St. Joseph Health of Sonoma County, which owns and operates Memorial Hospital, is currently exploring a few possible sites on or near the hospital.

"Architectural plans have been developed for a center in Santa Rosa that would be similar to the Synergy center that's located alongside our sister hospital, Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa," said St. Joseph Health spokeswoman Katy Hillenmeyer.

Hillenmeyer said that architectural designs are configured for each of the locations. The next step, she said, is finalizing the location.

Fitness classes began last week in the Petaluma Health Center's new exercise room, which can hold up to 20 people for yoga and 30 people for dance courses.

The drop-in fee for yoga classes is $10 for the public and $8 for health center patients. A punch-card good for five classes costs $40 for the public and $32 for patients.

Drop-in Zumba classes cost $7 for nonpatients and $5 for health center clients. Zumba punch-cards good for five classes cost $28 for nonpatients and $20 for health center clients.