Physical Fitness Testing for Mental Health

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Comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluations at J. Flowers Health Institute 

The information presented on this page is an overview of the average evaluation of this nature and is offered here as a resource. At J. Flowers Health Institute, our evaluations are customized and tailored to the individual’s needs.  We specialize in providing truly comprehensive health and wellness evaluations and a workable plan for future health to those who want to improve their quality of life.

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Physical Fitness Testing

Physical fitness is simply the body's ability to complete physical work.1 This can include cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and muscular endurance.

A physical fitness test may include a repetition maximum of strength-based exercises, like squats or bench presses, to assess muscular strength. It may also involve performing exercises, like bodyweight squats, until exhaustion, which tests muscular endurance. Tests performed on a stationary bike can evaluate anaerobic fitness. People may also complete walking or step aerobics tests, during which heart rate is assessed to determine cardiovascular fitness.

These types of tests can be quite helpful in developing a complete understanding of current health. Physical fitness can play an important role in an individual’s treatment journey.

Who Performs a Physical Fitness Test?

Typically, a sports medicine doctor is qualified to perform a physical fitness test and interpret the results. A certified personal trainer may also perform a fitness test in a gym or fitness center. Often, a sports medicine doctor can provide a more comprehensive physical fitness evaluation and interpret the results on a clinical level.

For example, a sports medicine doctor can determine if a person’s fitness test results indicate any underlying health conditions or medical risk factors. It is best to consult with a doctor before beginning an exercise program to reduce the risk of injury or health problems.

How are Physical Fitness Tests Performed?

A sports medicine doctor performs a physical fitness test in a clinical laboratory setting, using heart rate monitors, blood pressure cuffs, and exercise equipment. A physical fitness test typically begins with measuring height, weight, and body fat percentage. The doctor will also measure heart rate and blood pressure and will likely monitor these values throughout the fitness testing session.

After initial weight and body fat testing, resistance exercises will be requested, such as sit-ups, push-ups, or bodyweight squats, until exhaustion to determine their muscular endurance levels. The session will also likely involve tests of maximum strength, as well as an assessment of cardiovascular fitness. A physical fitness test may also include a walk on a treadmill, or as many step-up exercises as possible within a specified period, or maximum capacity on a stationary bike. The doctor will likely measure heart rate during and after these tests to determine just how well the heart is working.

What Does a Fitness Assessment Tell the Doctor?

A physical fitness test provides a doctor with valuable information about overall health and wellness. For example, it can tell a doctor if there are any underlying health conditions that have resulted from addiction. Determining the presence of health problems is an essential part of addiction recovery. In fact, a study involving people who use crack cocaine found that two-thirds of them had at least one health problem.2 Other research shows that alcohol abuse is the number two cause of high blood pressure.3 A physical fitness test can pick up on these underlying health problems associated with substance abuse.

Two-Thirds-of-People-Who-Use-Crack-Cocaine-Had-at-Least-One-Health-Problem

In addition, a physical fitness assessment can tell a doctor if a person is healthy enough to engage in an exercise program. Physical activity can be incorporated into a treatment program as a part of the recovery process, but first, a doctor must confirm that the body is healthy enough for exercise. Furthermore, a fitness assessment provides the doctor with baseline information about fitness levels and tells him or her what sort of exercise program is appropriate for individual needs. Baseline fitness levels can also be used as a benchmark to determine if health and fitness are improving throughout the recovery journey.

Why is Physical Fitness Important to Recovery?

Mind and Body Wellness

A fitness assessment helps a doctor determine what sort of exercise program should be included in a treatment plan. This is important because physical activity can play a crucial role in recovery. To begin with, it is important to achieve both mind and body wellness during the treatment journey. Often, when people are experiencing addiction, they are not taking care of their bodies with a proper exercise regimen. Physical fitness is, therefore, a part of the healing process when one begins to recover from an addiction.

It is also essential to consider the fact that the mind and body are connected. When the body is physically fit, the mind will benefit as well. For someone who is struggling with addiction, physical fitness can improve mental wellbeing, which is essential for recovery from substance abuse.

Abstinence

In addition to helping a person heal from the physical effects of addiction and promoting mind-body wellness, physical fitness is important for recovery because it can support abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Experts report that self-care is one of the most important aspects of recovery.4 Exercise and fitness represent an important form of self-care. Furthermore, they provide a healthier alternative to using drugs or alcohol to feel better.

In a study in a publication of Health Education Research, 97% of participants stated that they used drugs to relax, and 87% reported that drugs provided a way to relieve depression.5 Exercise, when incorporated into a treatment program, can become a healthier coping mechanism. Over time, exercise can even be used as a relapse prevention tool.

What Does the Research Say About Physical Fitness in Recovery

Not only does physical fitness provide a method for healthy coping in theory; it is also supported in the research. In 2014, scientists writing for the medical journal PLOS ONE analyzed 22 different studies that evaluated the effects of exercise on people who were in treatment for substance use disorders. The results showed that physical activity had the following benefits:6

69% increase in abstinence

Significant reduction in withdrawal symptom severity

Reduced depression and anxiety

The results showed that physical exercise was associated with abstinence from illegal drugs more than from other substances. Also, physical activity was found to be effective regardless of the type of exercise or exercise intensity.6

Therefore, physical fitness can improve addiction treatment outcomes. Because the specific type of exercise does not appear to be important, people can choose an exercise routine that works best for them.

Lowered Depression Symptoms

Some of the more specific results of the report are also worth mention. For example, the scientists found that moderate-to-high intensity exercise performed for 35 minutes significantly lowered depression symptoms among people with alcohol addiction. Other studies included in the report showed that walking on a treadmill at a moderate pace, reduced marijuana cravings, and improved the chances of staying sober from other drugs.

Exercise-Lowering-Depression-Symptoms_2

It is important to note that the effects of exercise are long-lasting, as the research found that they persisted after both 3-month and 12-month follow-up periods.6

Should Physical Fitness be Incorporated into Recovery?

Based on the research, physical fitness has numerous benefits for addiction recovery. It can improve mood, reduce cravings, and help a person stay abstinent from drugs and alcohol. When incorporated into a holistic treatment program, exercise interventions can enhance the results and ensure that a person gets the most out of their rehabilitation program. Exercise can be used as a form of stress relief, which is vital considering how unmanaged stress can lead to relapse.

Conclusion

For questions about whether you are healthy enough for exercise, it is important to consult with a general practitioner or a sports medicine doctor. To ensure your safety, a physical fitness test is recommended to rule out any health problems that would prevent you from exercising, and this testing should be completed before you begin exercising.

If you need treatment, reach out to an addiction professional today to begin the journey toward sobriety. It may benefit you to incorporate physical fitness testing and exercise into your treatment plan if a medical professional clears you for physical activity. A consistent exercise routine can become part of a healthy, sober lifestyle.