PowerCLEAN program helps strengthen bodies, minds and resolve

It’s not easy to recover from a substance use disorder. Whether it’s alcohol, tobacco or drugs, the process involves a lot of work mentally, spiritually and physically. 

Recovery can be complicated by the fact that many with this disorder have neglected daily health, making it harder to regain their emotional and physical well-being.

Image of PowerCLEAN class in actionPowerCLEAN, a program sponsored by the Columbia County Community Advisory Council of Columbia Pacific CCO and St. Helens Cross Fit, offers help to reconnect with health. 

Each Friday evening, PowerCLEAN hosts a class, free of charge to Oregon Health Plan members who are in recovery. At the sessions, participants are led by a certified fitness instructor and peer mentor, Tami Dawson. She teaches CrossFit, high-intensity interval training, strength and balance skills, in a fun nonjudgmental atmosphere. The music is upbeat and loud, but you can hear the moans and groans -- and laughs -- of the class members. 

‘The program is free for anyone in recovery,” said Shaunee Moreland, Columbia Pacific Community health improvement coordinator. “Sometimes people are referred through other programs like Pathways, Parole and Probation, and Department of Human Services. This program opened in May 2017, and we have seen about 80 participants.” 

Before each session, the participants get their blood pressure, heart rate, weight and mental health status checked. Says Shaunee Moreland, “We want to be sure that everyone is in good shape before we start. We also track these measurements as they improve over time.” 

Exercise in chemical dependency treatment serves many purposes in restoring the damaged mind-body connection, according to research. Some primary health benefits can be gained from exercise during treatment and recovery. 

  • Exercise relieves and reduces stress. Exercise has been proven to alleviate both physical and psychological stress. Tension builds in our bodies when we’re at work, during everyday interactions, even when we’re watching television. This tension can come from having poor posture or having a bad interaction with someone. Moving your body alleviates this tension and allows you to get rid of negative emotions you have been holding in. Focused exercise uses both physical and emotional energy that might otherwise find unhealthy outlets.
  • Exercise naturally and positively alters your brain chemistry. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which create a natural high. These are the same endorphins released in substance use disorders. However, abuse of drugs and alcohol causes an imbalance that interferes with a person’s ability to feel pleasure, happiness and satisfaction. Dedicated physical activity during treatment and recovery will help you reintroduce natural levels of endorphins in your system. This not only helps you feel better, but reteaches your body that it is capable of regulating your brain chemistry and mood in healthy, natural ways. 
  • Exercise is meditation in motion. The Mayo Clinic describes exercise as “meditation in motion,” meaning by concentrating on the physical, we can experience the psychological and emotional benefits of meditation. Through movement, we can refocus our thoughts on our own well-being and forget, at least briefly, all that is going on in our lives. You may leave your workout with a clearer mind, feeling more rejuvenated and optimistic. Finding this clarity within chaos can make recovery much more manageable. 
  • Exercise improves your overall outlook. Those who exercise regularly report increased feelings of self-confidence and optimism, and reduced feelings of depression and anxiety. This in part has to do with the body regulating and calibrating itself during exercise, but it also has to do with feelings of accomplishment, pride and self-worth as you see your body transform and your goals reached. As you reach certain benchmarks you feel more accomplished and it reinforces the goal of continued sobriety as attainable. 

For everyone, regular exercise fosters improved sleep, greater energy and enhanced feelings of well-being. These all contribute to making life much more manageable and enjoyable, and recovery that much more possible and sustainable. 

For more information about this program, please email Shaunee Moreland at: morelands@careoregon.org. 


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