Every Thursday the women at Lund’s Glen Road residential treatment program have the opportunity to participate in a group called Therapeutic Recreation. The group gives women the opportunity to engage in various physical activities such as biking, hiking, ice skating, paddle boarding, swimming, capture the flag, low ropes courses and more. The group is split into two parts – 30 minutes in the classroom and 60 minutes engaged in physical activity. Education and support for good nutrition, stable mental health and strength in recovery are the driving factors behind the curriculum. Time in the classroom is spent in discussion of various topics that relate specifically to the week’s chosen activity or to general health and wellness such as healthy eating and lifestyle choices, how to include children in physical activities, the benefits of exercise on stabilizing mental health, and how exercise can support maintaining recovery, creating social connections and feeling a sense of belonging. Physical exercise supports recovery in many different ways including:
- forging accountability and routine in a person’s day
- creating a sense of belonging and connection through group exercise or team sports
- increasing endorphins, dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain, all chemicals that are significantly depleted during drug use.
- allowing participants to physically exert themselves and experience a positive, natural “high”
- experiencing small successes during the activity which helps to boost self-confidence.
- elevating mood and energy levels
The group was started by Lund Case Manager Heather Bush to share her interest and love for physical fitness. It has grown into a group that both facilitators and residents look forward to each week. The positive effects of this class have already been noted with women beginning to independently incorporate physical fitness into their daily routines.
In addition to the class, Heather has teamed up with other colleagues to offer an additional physical fitness goal and help putting together a plan to achieve the goal. One such recent goal was running in the Run for Empowerment on June 18 – a 5 kilometer race to raise money for Women Helping Battered Women (which has since changed its name to “Steps to End Domestic Violence”).
This race was chosen because the date was favorable to a training schedule that would allow women who had never run before to be successful and because the work of Steps to End Domestic Violence is an organization that promotes empowerment of women and is a great collaborative community partner of Lund.
For this race the women were required to do a minimum of two runs a week and one day of cross training. They started with a run/walk format for 20 minutes and worked up to 45 minute runs with only one or two breaks per session. All of the women finished the race without stopping. Many moms brought their kids with them to watch the race and two even ran with strollers. There were lots of Lund staff members on the side lines holding supportive signs and cheering. All of the Lund team runners wore bright yellow Lund T shirts that they had upcycled to include a Wonder Woman theme.
As this class has evolved staff members have seen women build confidence, find their voices as leaders, work hard toward goals and increase their healthy habits such as ensuring adequate water intake, nutrition, reducing smoking etc. Women report they look forward to the class each week and that it is an important part of feeling good about themselves and their treatment. Those who are regularly running are enjoying the physical and emotional benefits of their new habits and have reported such things as “running is as important to me as attending AA” and “for the first time ever, I looked forward to running all day, to clear my head and think about nothing else” and “I know that I need this, and this will be a priority for me, even after I discharge”.
Summer weather has allowed for the class to explore even more options for creative physical activities and visitors to Glen Road one afternoon last week had the run the gauntlet of an energetic property wide game of Capture the Flag complete with water sprayers! When being healthy and having fun are combined the benefits are long lasting and reach widely many aspects of the women’s lives.