Originally published in The Grapevine Newspaper, June 18, 2014
Local experts weigh in on ways to succeed
By: Mary Jane Kinkade
Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series on the Vineland area’s fitness and health landscape – the challenges, local options and exciting new developments. Part one will focus on mind and body fitness – why it’s important, local programs and resources, and tips for success.
As James Leigh Hunt, a 19th century writer and poet, so eloquently said, “The groundwork of all happiness is health.” If you’re thinking it’s easier said than done, you’re probably correct, but with the right mindset and support, it doesn’t have to be hard — and may even be fun.
While gym memberships may swell at the beginning of the year and during bathing suit season, it’s not always indicative of people being ready to make the commitment to getting healthy. “The key is being ready,” said Lisa Scheetz, Chief Operating Officer for the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA. “Decisions like losing weight or getting in shape are very personal. Different people are ready at different times and for different reasons.”
Statistics show that the need is real. According to a recent study conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, Cumberland is the unhealthiest county in the state. There are many factors that contribute to this including unemployment rate, poverty level, lack of exercise, and more.
Scheetz explained that things such as where a person lives or whether or not they have a support system also play a role. “At the Y, families are at the heart of everything we do,” she said. “Children as young as 11 years old can work out in our Family Fitness Center. We believe that families who exercise together stay together, which is key to success.”
Unfortunately, many of Vineland’s inner city families don’t have a car, which makes it difficult to get to a regular grocery store with a wide variety of choices and access to fresh purchase. Getting exercise can also be challenging, as people often feel unsafe going walking or biking on busy neighborhood streets.
The good news is that progress is being made thanks to initiatives like the brand new two-mile bike lane that now exists on Wood and Elmer streets between West and East avenues. It’s a first for inner-city Vineland and is complete with painted lines, cross walks and signage. It was funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK). “Families now have a safe place to ride and walk,” said Scheetz. “It’s all about meeting people where they are, which in this case, is in their neighborhoods.”
Another program that’s making strides is Vineland’s Corner Store Initiative. With help from the NJPHK’s Vineland team from the YMCA and Vineland Health Department, many of the city’s corner stores are literally turning a corner when it comes to providing healthy food choices for their customers. Also participating are local restaurants like Tony Soprano’s pizza. “Store and restaurant owners are working with us to implement the Healthy Corner Store Tool Kit, which was created by the Food Trust of Philadelphia,” says Scheetz. “This program is really taking off as owners want to help. We’re even testing the sale of healthy options like fruit smoothies in some stores. By working together, we’re making eating healthy an easy choice.”
What’s not always easy is getting started even when you have access to healthy food choices and exercise facilities. For many people, it’s the lack of energy and clarity of mind that stands in the way. “Things like depression, unhappiness and negativity can be huge barriers to healthfulness,” says Shirley Burke, owner of Serene Touch Center in Vineland, which offers Reiki, life coaching and mediation services. “Everything in the universe is made of energy. The universe vibrates, as do we. The higher our levels of energy and vibration, the happier and healthier we feel.”
In 2011, Burke added Reiki therapy to her repertoire of services. What began as a spur-of-the-minute class during a Gilda’s Club meeting, has turned into a thriving business that’s making a difference in people’s lives. Reiki is a safe, gentle, non-invasive holistic energy therapy that helps to restore depleted energy, reduce pain and lower stress. It can also aid conventional health care during patient recovery. “Often fixing one part of person’s life can lead to fixes in many other areas, like getting healthy and fit,” said Burke. Therapies like Reiki, mediation and life coaching can help us learn to take our oars of the water and go with the flow.”
If learning to flow, particularly when it comes to movement sounds good, you might want to consider stopping in to see Master Chuck Vertolli at Yi’s Karate. Located on Lincoln Avenue in Vineland, Yi’s Karate provides a great option for people who want to become physically fit. What’s more, Yi’s also provides a healthy dose of self-discipline, self-control, focus, and respect.
“We address both the physical and mental aspects of health,” says Vertolli who began his training 28 years ago. “Our students include both children and adults, and sometimes whole families,” he said. We work with children as young as five and with adults of all ages. Anyone can do it and it’s never too late to start.”
Like Sheetz, Vertolli agrees that a commitment is necessary. “This isn’t something you master in one month,” he said. “We start slowly, usually with a private lesson, and then continue from there. Everyone progresses at a different pace, and that’s okay. What’s important is that you don’t give up. It takes time but remember no one was born a black belt.”
While there are many forms of Martial Arts, Tang Soo Do is the type practiced at Yi’s. Tang Soo Do is a relatively modern Korean martial art that dates back to the 6th Century. “It challenges both the body and the mind and teaches self-discipline.” says Vertolli. Our students learn to perform at full speed and with full power, but also how and when to stop.”
So, are you ready? If so, everything you need to get both your mind and body fit and healthy is ready and waiting for you — right here in Vineland. Next week in part two of this series, we will explore some of the area’s most recent advances in health care, both traditional and alternative.
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