Three small boys hold hands as they walk carefully through the lobby of the Northern Dauphin County YMCA on their way to the child watch room. The staff greet them excitedly as they enter and start to explore the room they know very well. Their mom, Jackie E, reminds them to listen to the staff as they set off in the direction of their favorite activities. Jackie’s young, large family is one that is tied firmly together with love. She and her husband adopted twins and welcomed a biological son in the same year. The three boys have been attending the YMCA since Jackie first started coming to fitness classes almost a year ago. Here is her health journey:
“I gained a lot of weight and I wasn’t happy in my life with where I was,” said Jackie. “I wanted to have my figure back, to have energy back, so I came to the Y. The first class I took was Insanity and, of course, I was a lot heavier and out of shape. I remember getting to the parking lot after class and thinking ‘Oh my gosh, how did I let myself get to where I am?’ I just wanted to cry, because I was so out of breath and disappointed in myself. I got in the car and I said ‘You need to go back.’”
And Jackie did go back. She started coming to the Northern Dauphin County YMCA faithfully, and CeCe, her YMCA trainer was there for her the whole way. “When I saw her continue to come back, I tried to talk to her and encourage her that she’s doing such a great job. As an instructor, it’s always encouraging to find participants that come from a place where they are challenged.” CeCe, who is also a mother of twins, became a close friend of Jackie’s as she worked on physical fitness, and found ways to keep her motivated at the YMCA. “CeCe and I became really good friends so it helped to motivate me, and the great friends I’ve met at the gym are awesome,” said Jackie.
For many parents, finding time to work out and take care of themselves is a daily battle. The demands of life become the priority, and the nature of a parent is to put the needs of others before their own. It’s very common for a parent to sign their child up for tee-ball or soccer, and then sit on the sidelines watching the activity. In fact, according to DPHP, More than 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. Personal, social, economic, and environmental factors all play a role in physical activity levels among youth, adults, and older adults. Understanding the barriers to and facilitators of physical activity are important to ensure the effectiveness of interventions and other actions to increase levels of physical activity. One barrier is single-parent or two-working-parent homes. When there are limited choices or a financial burden associated with exercise, it is less likely a parent will participate.
In Jackie’s case, three young boys and two working parents needed a little assistance from the YMCA child watch program. “I would not be able to come if they didn’t have the childcare. I found out that the times were in the morning and in the afternoon, and during the classes so I could attend the classes, that was great,” she said. “The YMCA is a great place for us to come as a family. We can join together and do activities together.”
“Child watch is always at a time where we can accommodate different types of parents, so stay at home moms or those who work in the evenings, they can come during those hours where it fits into their schedule,” said CeCe. “This is much more than a fitness facility. We are very geared around social responsibility, community. Without the YMCA we wouldn’t have that, and I feel like we’d really be lacking.” Parents like Jackie have found a way to be more active and make sure that their children are safe and cared for at the YMCA. Child watch is just one of the ways that the YMCA keeps families together as they seek to lead healthier lives.
“Joining the YMCA has been the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Jackie. “I honestly thought that my clothes size would just keep getting bigger and bigger in my closet. I still can’t get used to seeing a smaller size.”
–Madeline Kelly, Digital Communications Coordinator