Benefits of The ARC

The benefits of The ARC are numerous.  Overall, vibrant communities with adequate indoor sports and recreational facilities improve the physical and mental health of their residents through a wealth of options to increase overall wellness. Healthy residents reinforce our community fabric and create opportunities for additional positive, grass-roots organizations and clubs to thrive. Quality indoor sports and recreational facilities attract and retain young people and retirees, as well as out-of-town visitors for tournaments with positive economic impacts on the area. Spurring this kind of economic development encourages businesses to redevelop and reinvest in our communities. 

The overall fitness benefits of The ARC are well understood and compelling.  Some of the less obvious but absolutely critical benefits include positive impacts on mental health, chronic disease improvement, water safety and drowning prevention, a reduction is loneliness and social isolation, and others. 

Mental Health

The ARC can help address Montana’s Suicide and Mental Health Crisis.

While it is unquestionable that physical exercise and recreation facilitate physical health, physical exercise also helps address mental health. It is intuitive that if we feel good, we can better handle life’s stresses. The science now demonstrates that exercise can have a direct and positive effect on preventing and addressing depression and anxiety.  In a recent, extensive study analyzing the role of exercise in addressing depression and anxiety, the researchers concluded that:

“Physical activity is highly beneficial for improving symptoms of depression, anxiety and distress across a wide range of adult populations, including the general population, people with diagnosed mental health disorders and people with chronic disease. Physical activity should be a mainstay approach in the management of depression, anxiety and psychological distress.” (emphasis added).

British Journal of Sports Medicine

A 2021 article published in the Harvard Health Publishing, the consumer information division of Harvard Medical School, stated that “Exercise is as effective as antidepressants in some cases.”

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that exercise can keep your brain healthy and protects it against depression and anxiety.  There are countless other studies and resources reaching similar conclusions.[3] Just type “exercise and mental health” in your browser to find numerous studies, articles, discussions and podcasts discussing the mental health benefits of exercise.

These conclusions demonstrate that exercise can have a profound effect on mental health, and Montana has a mental health crisis.  It has the highest or next to highest suicide rate in the nation. The County’s mental health statistics are equally sobering:

  • Almost twenty-five percent (25%) of County adults were diagnosed with depressive disorder.
  • Twenty-five percent (25%) of County high school students reported seriously considering attempting suicide in the previous year.
  • Thirty percent (30%) of County Medicaid population ages 10-17 had a suicide and self-harm diagnosis.
  • Approximately nine percent (9%) of County survey respondents reported feeling isolated or lonely -3-5 days per week or every day in 2020. 
  • Over half of the County’s population felt moderate or high stress most of the time.  Only 8% utilized stress management services.

While our community has great outdoor opportunities in the summer, it has very few indoor recreational facilities. Our winters are long and without good indoor recreational facilities, residents do not have sufficient recreational facilities to go to for exercise. The ARC will provide a critical tool to help address our community’s and Montana’s mental health issues as it will improve physical health, mental health and overall wellness.

Chronic Disease Improvement

Exercise is also an effective tool in helping to address a range of health conditions such as chronic diseases and conditions.  Here are some County health statistics, all from the Lewis & Clark County 2021 Community Health Report: 

  • Approximately twenty-five percent (25%) of County adults have arthritis.  
  • Twenty-three percent (23%) of County adults are obese.
  • Seventy-six percent (76%) of County residents do not meet recommended 150 minutes or more of physical activity per week.
  • Sixty-five percent (65%) of County high school students do not meet the recommended 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day.
  • Thirteen percent (13%) of County residents have at least one disability type.
  • Close to ten percent (10%) of County adults reported a history of heart attack.
  • Eight percent (8%) of the County’s population have diabetes. 
  • Twelve percent (12%) of County residents have asthma.
  • Approximately eight percent (8%) of County Medicare beneficiaries have a diagnosis of dementia, Alzheimer’s or related disorder.
  • Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death in Lewis & Clark County. 

Exercise can help prevent and manage many of these disease and conditions and can also help residents cope with them.

Drowning and Water Safety

Montana has among the highest drowning rates in the Nation and there is an acute shortage of pool space in the County for residents to learn to swim, to swim competently, and to learn basic water safety skills.  The County and the State have beautiful rivers and lakes, and our residents must know how to swim and to have the confidence to not panic and to swim to safety whether that is a shoreline, a boat, or even the side of a pool.  Residents also need to know basic water safety to help family and friends who need emergency help in the water.

The ARC can be a pivotal tool in addressing Montana’s drowning rate by providing sufficient indoor pool space for swimming lessons, ranging from infants to youth to younger and older adults.  It can also provide space for lifeguard training and basic water safety skills. The lack of indoor pool space in the area is acute and having additional pool space available is critical to helping reduce Montana’s drowning rate.

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