After Hayley Avino witnessed how a CrossFit community helped her brother recover from substance abuse disorder, she made it her mission to generate awareness about the power of fitness in helping those struggling with addiction.
Avino, 29, is currently completing her Doctorate Degree in Nursing through Arizona State University. Her research is focused on social connection and exercise and their influence on long-term recovery. Her degree also includes a health, fitness and wellness project she’s about to implement at a residential treatment center in Scottsdale, AZ.
- “Even though it’s widely accepted that fitness can help recovery — it improves mental health and endorphins, and can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms — most residential treatment centers still don’t include a fitness program,” she said.
One big thing: Though the connection between fitness and recovery is fairly accepted, group fitness and recovery hasn’t been researched much at all, Avino explained.
- “Out of (thousands of) studies in the field, only three had something to do with group exercise, so it’s definitely an area of research that’s under utilized. And I truly think it can change lives,” Avino said.
- “So the purpose of the project is to prove how invaluable it is to have connections early on in people’s recovery…One of the number one problems for those in recovery is how they have exhausted their resources. Often, friends and family have cut ties with them so they just keep going back to their old habits. So having a fitness environment with people who understand what they’re going through is invaluable,” Avino said.
Project details: Avino’s project — Defying Relapse (through) Exercise and Mindfulness (for) Enhanced Recovery: The Dreamer Project — is a 12-week program that includes workouts with a coach, as well as wellness and mindfulness sessions. It is set to be implemented at a Scottsdale residential treatment center next month. Avino, along with a psychiatric health nurse student, will work directly with 60 patients at the center.
The big picture: Avino’s first goal is to get her research published in a medical journal, but ultimately she is hoping it will fuel a movement that will encourage rehabilitation programs and centers to recognize how integral having a supportive fitness community is for those recovering from addiction.
- “I’m really hoping it will get treatment centers to start offering free or low-cost fitness classes for those in recovery. It will really help them have structure, accountability and peer support,” she said.
- Avino added: “My brother is doing amazing things, but people in the medical community don’t know this. There’s so much misunderstanding, and I’m hoping my research can show that people are capable of recovery, capable of being healthy again and giving back to the community.”
Her brother, Jeremy Plummer, is doing this through his organization Recovery Through Repetition in Boca Raton, FL, an organization that offers group functional fitness and yoga classes on a by-donation basis to anyone who is in recovery. As many as 50 people workout there each day, Avino said.
“I went down there and everyone I met was saying how much my brother had helped their life, so that’s why I decided to dedicate my research to this,” Avino said, adding that she’s hoping to open a branch of Recovery Through Repetition in AZ once she finishes her doctorate degree.
- She added: “Fitness and a support network are so under utilized as a treatment, yet it’s so simple, and it really can help people live healthier, longer lives.”
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