McLean Hospital Opens Fitness Center for Patients

Studies show that regular exercise has beneficial effects on mental health

November 01, 2005

Adriana Bobinchock
Public Affairs

Belmont, MA - Harvard's McLean Hospital has added a new feature to its list of patient services: a Fitness and Recreation Center. Centrally located in the heart of the hospital's Belmont campus, the fitness center was established through private donations and is designated specifically for McLean inpatients, residential patients and partial hospital patients, as well as students who attend McLean's Arlington School and Pathways Academy.

Link to more fitness center information

"We hope McLean staff will encourage patients to use the center to continue a fitness program or to begin a new one," says project manager Sally Jenks. "Studies have shown that even minimal exercise has beneficial results."

Since 1990, more than 100 studies have been conducted worldwide that have shown the regular exercise can improve one's mental health. According to a report cited by President George W. Bush's Council on Physical Fitness and Exercise, physical activity can significantly reduce anxiety and depression. "We now have evidence to support the claim that exercise is related to positive mental health as indicated by relief in symptoms of depression and anxiety," writes Daniel M. Landers, a researcher from Arizona State University in his report "The Influence of Exercise on Mental Health."

Caroline Cale at the new McLean Fitness and Recreation Center.

Center coordinator Caroline Cale.
(click to enlarge)

With a growing body of research touting the mental health benefits of exercise and the desire to create a place for McLean patients to interact with one another, longtime McLean supporter Kay Kimpton Walker proposed building a fitness center. She spearheaded the fundraising effort and, with support from the McLean Development Office, during an 18-month period helped raise $400,000-enough to build and equip the center, as well as support it for three years. She also chose the furnishings and the artwork for the recreation area.

"The center will be a retreat where patients can spend part of their unstructured time during the day or on weekends and alleviate, at least in part, the isolation that is too often a consequence of mental illness," explains Walker.

Patients interested in exercise techniques or advice can turn to the center's fulltime coordinator Caroline Cale, a certified personal trainer who holds a bachelor's degree in health and exercise science with a concentration in sports medicine.

The center is equipped with state-of-the-art machines, including treadmills, stationary bikes and ellipticals, as well as strength training equipment. Cale will be able to offer exercise instruction at various skill levels from beginners to advanced.

"We have equipment for every activity level, and we plan to offer group fitness exercises, such as yoga and aerobics," says Cale. "This is a wonderful resource for patients and I'm looking forward to helping them achieve the maximum benefit from the center."

Says Jenks: "Through the generosity of our donors we've created a warm and inviting environment in which patients can enjoy social interaction with others and a change of pace from their daily routine," she says.

McLean Hospital, consistently ranked the nation's top psychiatric hospital by U.S. News & World Report, is an affiliate of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital and a member of Partners HealthCare.

Email this page