Helping Others Heal

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For years now, studies have reported that exercise eases the effects of trauma. Though it’s not always easy to predict how trauma will affect an individual, it’s a nearly universal law that regular exercise will help individuals manage their reactions to trauma. Doctors recommend workout routines for veterans returning from war and others who might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and coaches know that the best morale-booster for athletes who have recovered from an injury is to get back into the game.

Chances are, therefore, that if you own or manage a fitness center, at least some of your clients are there because they’re struggling to overcome some experience of trauma, whether physical or emotional, small-scale or large-scale.

You’ve probably guessed by now what I’m working up to here. A few days ago, in Boston, thousands of people experienced a large-scale trauma. Thousands of others around the country, and around the world, watched with horror and anxiety as events unfolded.

In this instance, many of the people involved already know the benefits of exercise. They were, of course, runners. They were personal trainers. They were tennis pros and fitness directors and health club maintenance workers. They were also just people who appreciate the discipline, hard work, and determination that go into marathon running, the beautiful, triumphant spectacle of the whole thing.

How are all of these people going to heal? Exercise helps, we know — but what if exercise is the thing associated with the trauma? Will runners want to continue running? Will people training for future marathons be too scared to continue? Can exercise still heal when it was exercise that gave a platform to the trauma in the first place?
Given the results of most studies on exercise and trauma, the answer is probably yes. But what can you do to help?

The bombings at the Boston Marathon directly affect the fitness industry; it only makes sense that the fitness industry should respond. Were any of your members running in the marathon? If so, give them a hero’s welcome home, or maybe just have your membership services staff reach out to them personally. Whether you had clients involved or not, can you offer a discount for the month in honor of the people who were killed or injured? Do you have the resources to bring in a social worker or trauma expert to give a talk to the community about the bombings?

Whatever you do, your efforts will be felt by your community — merely seeing your facility respond in some way can help initiate healing for those who need it. And you might find some of them realizing that exercise could help further their healing, and signing up for a class or two — or a run around the track.

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