The activities that you and I take for granted, like deciding when we eat, sleep, work and shower, are activities in a prisoner's life where they have no control.

Being told when they must do those activities has caused inmates to suffer from higher mental and emotional distress than the outside population. Coping mechanism's, including exercise and physical fitness, have been proposed by experts to combat the high levels of depression, anxiety, and stress seen in the prison population. Research proves that providing inmates with access to fitness equipment allows them to "burn off steam", which stimulates a calming effect, making them less likely to be disruptive or cause trouble in a prison setting.

inmate behind bars

Benefits of Exercise for Inmates

A variety of coping methods are used in a correctional setting to manage the mental health of inmates. These methods can include maintaining regular contact with family members to seeking employment or educational opportunities offered in the facilities. One of the most common coping methods used by inmates is exercise and weightlifting. These coping methods are essential to survival during incarceration as well as the ability to function after release. Cooper and Berwick (2001) noted that 38% of young prisoners and 13% of those serving life sentences listed exercise as their primary coping method. It is reasonable to predict that if exercise equipment is accessible, prison inmates will lower their depression, stress, and anxiety levels.

Many studies have examined the beneficial effects of exercise in the prison population. With regular weight-lifting, inmates have reported a significant decrease in verbal aggression, anger and hostility. Weight-lifting improved levels of confidence and self-concept while teaching inmates to be more social with others.

*This article has been condensed and summarized from Buckaloo, Krug and Nelson’s 2009 academic journal, Exercise and the Low-Security Inmate. Read the full article here:

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How Outdoor-Fit Can Support Your Staff and Inmates

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