Chronic Disease Prevention & Management at the Y

3 June 2021

Living healthy is important at every age and every stage of life. At the Y, we offer classes and programs that empower individuals to improve their health and live life to the fullest.

With a focus on meeting people where they are along their health journey, and taking them where they desire in order to thrive, the Y takes a dual-faceted approach to healthy living—prevention and management.

Prevention: General Healthy Living Programs 

When we say prevention, we typically speak in the context of  what we can be doing in our daily habits to prevent poor health, and ultimately prevent chronic diseases that are a result of unhealthy eating, sedentary lifestyles and even genetically predisposed likelihoods that we will develop long-term health issues if we leave our routines unchecked. Prevention at the Y looks like programs that encourage the recommended amounts of movement, like group fitness classes, and even more focused goal setting, like personal training with a certified coach. What many may not realize is heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States every year. However, a healthy diet, regular exercise and well-managed blood pressure are all within the top five ways to prevent heart disease, and can all be regulated by involvement in programs and routines at the Y that get you and KEEP you moving. 

Management: Boxing and Movement for Parkinson’s Disease

Rock Steady Boxing, and similar movement programs, are leading examples of how the Y tackles chronic disease management. By enabling people with Parkinson's to fight the deteriorating effects of the disease, these programs provide non-contact boxing-style fitness that improves quality of life and provides a sense of success and self-worth. Through inspiring maximum effort, speed, strength, balance and flexibility, boxing works by moving your body in all planes of motion while continuously changing the routine as you progress through the workout—a combination that is crucial in combating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. According to sources that have studied the positive outcomes in Parkinson’s patients that have participated in boxing programs, specifically Rock Steady Boxing, “various studies in the 1980’s and 1990‘s support that rigorous exercise, emphasizing gross motor movement, balance, core strength, rhythm and hand-eye coordination can favorably impact range of motion, flexibility, posture, gait and activities of daily living. More recent studies, most notably at Cleveland Clinic, focus on the concept of intense ‘forced’ exercise, and suggest that certain types of exercise are neuro-protective, which means that it is a type of exercise that may actually slow disease progression”. 

These boxing programs, and trainers that are equipped with the knowledge and resources to assist Parkinson’s patients, can be found at the YMCA of South Hampton Road’s Albemarle Family YMCA, Blocker/Norfolk Family YMCA and Princess Anne Family YMCA locations. Particularly at the Albemarle Family YMCA, coaches like Rita are helping to change outcomes for those living with a Parkinson’s diagnosis. “My husband has been working with Rita Cornelius, his Personal Trainer, for over two years at the Albemarle Family YMCA in Elizabeth City,” shared Mrs. Creps. “Bill has Parkinson’s Disease, heart issues and was recovering from hip replacement surgery when he first started working with Rita. She has always been truly kind and caring yet continues to encourage him to do more and they have experienced both progress and sometimes setbacks. Parkinson’s is a neurological degenerative disease, so keeping him moving is most important and Rita does a great job with motivation – better than a spouse could ever do.”

For more information on how the Y can help those living with Parkinson’s Disease, contact Daniel O'Connor, Vice President of Healthy Living, at And, make sure to check out our blog as we continue to share positive stories of impact from those that have found the resources they need at the Y to help slow the effects of Parkinson’s Disease.