Physical and mental health improves with exercising at the YMCA

Published 9:09 am Thursday, September 23, 2021

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

Ashley Hewitt knows what it is like to be out of shape – and depressed.

It happened to her when she was a marketing major at Bentley University. A favorite aunt had died. She was failing a couple of classes.

In her mind, the situation seemed hopeless.

But she got back on track with exercise.

“I turned to exercise, and eating better,” she said.

Now, after earning a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Rhode Island, she’s teaching exercise classes at the Davie Family YMCA.

“Exercise helped me to feel better,” she said. “Then, there were a lot of things in my mind … and it helped me process things. I just felt better overall.”

She trained with weights, and cardio workouts. She even participated in fitness competitions for a while. She’s thankful for coaches who recommended a well-balanced diet, and she continues to learn more about nutrition.

About 10 years ago, her husband accepted a job at Wake Forest University, and the family moved to Davie County. She’s been teaching fitness classes at the local YMCA for six years.

“I’m a better version of myself with exercise,” she said. “I deal with my kids (She has three.) better.”

That’s one of the reasons she chose the Davie Family YMCA. The Kidz Zone is a great place for children to hang out while their parents work out. “I learned that I could come here, take my classes, and I know my kids are being taken care of.” She teaches body pump classes, combat, spring, yoga and metabolic effect.

And since coronavirus started, she has noticed a change with the way folks work out; but most, she said, are happy to be back with in-person workouts, although some prefer the virtual workouts.

“People are evaluating their  personal goals and time commitment. Some people are overwhelmed and overcome with stress,” adding that the body doesn’t know the difference from positive and negative stress.

“We try to find ways to fit exercise into their lifestyles. People are enjoying being outside more now, finding positives in shifting routines.”

Just having kids back in school is a stress relief for many, she said.

“In any type of wellness program, community is a tremendous support system. Group fitness is a way to build that support system as you make friends with similar-minded people. That connection makes you feel special, and you can feel a lot of energy in group workouts.”

Often at home, there are too many distractions for a proper workout.

It did take her a while to adjust to life in Davie County. She wasn’t used to seeing the same people on a regular basis.

Some programs focus too much on weight loss, she said. “I want more energy. I want to be able to keep up with my kids. They know that on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we go to the Y, that’s what we do.”

She praises the facilities at the Davie Family YMCA, saying there is some type of exercise and activity for anyone. “The Y offers so much more than a boutique fitness place. Here, you can do any type of workout and have a safe place for your kids.”

Her husband, Michael, coaches the Davie High and Wake Forest club lacrosse teams. Her children are Viola, 11, Garrison, 9, and Flora, 6.

To learn more about offerings at the YMCA, visit the facility on Cemetery Street in Mocksville or visit