Meet a Health Hero: George Matysik

"A healthier region begins with healthier neighborhoods and our city’s recreation centers are the best point of entry to encourage healthy living."

» You can vote for George here September 27th through October 3rd. Mark your calendar! 

Name: George Matysik

Role: Executive director at the Philadelphia Parks Alliance, advocate for food access

Who or what motivates you to be healthy?
What motivates me to be healthy is knowing the obstacles other communities face. I’ve spent the last few years working in communities that lack access to supermarkets and adequate recreation facilities. You see the challenges people have to overcome taking three buses to get to the nearest grocery store, or playing on fields that look like the surface of the moon — just rocks and craters. Still folks consistently overcome those obstacles. For the last five years, my wife and I have also done our grocery shopping based below the average food stamp budget. It always helps us keep perspective on the difficulties families face in eating healthy and affordable food. I use a LOT of coupons.

Describe a health or fitness-related turning point in your life.
Every day that I don’t consume an entire box of Cheez-It crackers in one sitting is a major milestone. In all honesty, I think there have been a series of turning points, both good and bad. The most difficult times for me have been when I overloaded myself with work. I felt there was no time for healthy eating, no time for fitness and certainly no time for sleep. I think my low point was in 2006 when I was working two full-time jobs and was a full-time student. I gained 30 pounds that year and just felt awful. Since then, I’ve found that achieving a work/life balance is critical to healthy living.

What policy would you institute to make Greater Philadelphia a healthier region?
A healthier region begins with healthier neighborhoods and our city’s recreation centers are the best point of entry to encourage healthy living. Recreation centers already provide access to athletics, but we can also further utilize them as a gateway to other wraparound programs, such as access to government benefits and enrichment programming. One other policy: anyone who puts mayonnaise on their cheesesteak should be deported to Delaware.

What’s the most important part of your health or fitness regimen?
Balance. There’s always that push and pull between being hyper-obsessed with your health (or more appropriately, image) and just not caring. I’ve been in both places in my life, but I always feel my best when I can strike a balance. Watching what I eat, without obsessing over the calories in a carrot stick. Working out without have to train for a marathon.

What is your number one piece of health-related advice or encouragement?
Don’t be intimidated by your local gym prices. Every neighborhood in Philadelphia has access to a recreation center. And while they may not have all of the equipment they need just yet (the Parks Alliance is working on it!) they do offer plenty of programming for folks of all ages. If they don’t have a program you’d like to see offered, reach us at and we’ll help you navigate the system!

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