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Q&A With Mary Arocha, Executive Branch Director of Richmond Hill YMCA
mary arocha
Mary Arocha shines light on family fitness.

Q:  How does the YMCA encourage family fitness?
A: We encourage family fitness by offering multiple classes such as Mommy and Me and Boot Camp for Families. Even in our child-care rooms, we have hula hoops and gymnastics mats. We encourage kids to play actively. Having specific classes such as gymnastics, home-school P.E., soccer and T-ball also contribute. Twelve years and up are encouraged to utilize all exercise equipment with a proper orientation, as well as the opportunity to take group exercise classes with their parents. For a fun alternative, we offer gymnastics and jiujitsu for adults and children. Through our summer camps, we offer dance camp, paddle boarding, karate and other fun sporting activities to keep children active.
Q: What is the biggest obstacle for families trying to get fit?
A: Time for exercise! At the YMCA, we try to make it easier with a variety of classes and times to accommodate busy schedules. We encourage them to set a time as an appointment. Time seems to be the biggest issue, so we try to schedule our classes for 45 minutes to get the most in you can.
Q: Do you have any tips for parents attempting to kick off a health and wellness program within their homes?
A: Changing one or two things to start is a good idea. You can easily add walking or biking to an afternoon. We also encourage rollerblading, dancing, hula-hooping, which are all fun ways to get fitness in at home. Most kids won’t exercise unless you make it fun.
Q: What has been your biggest motivation in regards to fitness?
A: The biggest motivating fitness factor is seeing lives changed. As a staff, we help people in so many ways.  From watching children build their self-confidence when they achieve a goal to helping moms feel healthy, strong and confident, it all drives our motivation. We help cancer survivors get back to feeling healthy, veterans and military feel welcome and part of a community, and senior citizens are helped everyday utilizing our group exercise to help them with their energy levels and rehab. The YMCA is the family place to be in our community. There truly is something for everyone. We are impacting lives every day, and I get to see it on a daily basis. It is very rewarding.
Q: Do you offer resources for families with regard to creative and healthy recipes?
A: We post weekly healthy recipes for our members and the community. Personal trainers are available with nutrition backgrounds that can help families plan. We have seminars on family nutrition as well.
Q:  What is the recommendation for daily activity for families?
A: The hardest part is getting started. Begin slowly. Change one thing per week, then two things per week and grow from there. Delete something here, add something there. Before you know it, you are on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
Q: Can you suggest any creative ways families can be fit without hitting the gym?
A: It is easy to take a walk, ride a bike, drink more water and add a vegetable or fruit. At-home exercise can be as easy as dancing in the house, doing Wii Fit or Just Dance on the Xbox 360. Kids will follow what they see is fun and what they see their parents do. Hiking is a good one, too. Take a camping trip. Jumping rope is always fun and can be done at home.
Q: In your opinion, what are the main factors for childhood obesity?
A: There are a lot of factors such as inactivity, inexpensive and unhealthy choices on the go, electronic era, screen time and less physical activity in schools. Time is an issue for families; educating parents on quick healthy alternatives can help. Making time for an active lifestyle that fits into your busy schedule is possible, but it takes planning, effort and time. It is not impossible to be fit, healthy and active as a family, but it does take extra effort because the alternative is so easy and readily available.
Q: How does the city of Richmond Hill encourage and promote health and wellness?
A: We have always had the support of our community. One of our strategic initiatives is to combat childhood obesity. We strive to fulfill this initiative in all our family programs. The support we have seen comes to us from so many partnerships with local business, churches and civic groups. They can see that we do not want anyone in our community to miss out on the opportunities the YMCA offers. We make sure that no child or family is turned away for an inability to pay for any programs we have. We offer healthy … lunches for our youth during summer camp and healthy snacks in our after-school program. Without the support of our Richmond Hill community, we could not offer all the programs and services we do. Our superintendent of schools, Dr. (Paul) Brooksher, as well as the mayor have always supported us in all of our community efforts to help families here in our Richmond Hill community.

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