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Running group in Outpatient Mental Health helps participants improve their well being

Posted Jul 20th, 2016

Kathryn Richmond admits she’s learned a lot while participating in Niagara Health’s Strides to Recovery program.

But there’s one lesson she likes to highlight most: “When life knocks you down, I’ve learned how to get back on my feet.” Strides to Recovery is a learn-to-run group that is offered twice a year in our Outpatient Mental Health program. The 13-week program is an exercise-based approach to assisting in the management of symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. It also includes a health-teaching component to provide awareness of the links between physical fitness and mental health. Mrs. Richmond says the program has been key in her recovery. “The group keeps me accountable to not sit around and ruminate about my illness, but to take steps to manage it and to be healthy,” she says. “The wonderful thing about the journey with Strides and the other courses here in the Mental Health program is being a discovery of recovery and that recovery is possible.”

Cynthia Lubberts, who was also part of the Strides group with Mrs. Richmond in the fall of 2015, is grateful for the program. “It got me out of the house,” she says. “It got me into a social group. That’s very important. There are lots of times when I’ve had a difficult time and I would keep challenging myself to go to the running group because it was a good place to be, rather than sitting at home.”

The Strides to Recovery running group -- whose motto is to support one another, never leaving anyone to run alone -- was created in 2014 by Megan Ransom, a Recreation Therapist in the Mental Health Unit at our St. Catharines Site. Mrs. Ransom runs the group with Lisa Smith, a Registered Social Worker in the Mental Health Program.“

This group has been so much more than individuals learning how to run. It’s become a community of individuals who are collectively making strides towards the same thing, improved wellbeing,” says Mrs. Ransom. “Not only is exercise a powerful tool in treating mental health, but it is also an incredible metaphor when dealing with struggles. Our group has faced hills, inclement weather and the regular challenges associated with exercise, but with support, education and determination we have experienced great accomplishment in conquering these barriers. While the barriers experienced in everyday life may take a different shape, it has reminded our participants, that they too can be overcome utilizing similar strategies.”

Niagara Health System