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Physical Activity and Inmate Health

NCJ Number
Corrections Compendium Volume: 26 Issue: 11 Dated: November 2001 Pages: 6-7,9
John Amtmann
Date Published
November 2001
3 pages
This article focuses on the effects of physical activity on inmate health and disease, and the recommendations on physical activity for prevention of chronic disease.
The Surgeon General’s report states that higher levels of regular physical activity are associated with lower death rates. Even those who participate in moderately intense activities have lower mortality rates than those who are less active. This is true of the general public and of inmates. There is a favorable relationship between exercise and cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in America. This is important considering that the prison system must pay for inmate health care during their incarceration. Physical activity also relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety, suggesting less inmate violence toward other inmates or staff. Exercise programs for elderly inmates may have a positive effect on the number of infirmary visits, which may have a long-term effect on inmate health care costs. In light of these reports, prison administration should encourage healthy inmate behavior. Activities such as walking, jogging, stationary cycling, and jumping rope are recommended. Inmates should have the opportunity to participate in these activities 3 to 5 days a week for 60 minutes per session. Staff should ensure that inmates have the opportunity to participate in musculoskeletal fitness-developing activities 2 to 3 days a week. Administrators may consider hiring staff with exercise physiology and/or physical education backgrounds, or training staff in these areas to help promote participant education. There are negative issues concerning weight lifting in prisons: inmates may use their strength as a weapon against correctional officers; equipment is expensive; and use of illegal steroids and association with those who sell them. Educational components should be implemented into the prison orientation program that includes why exercise is important physically and mentally. 1 table, 8 references