Running Free

One of the core tenets of KineSophy is that physical fitness and physical virtues complement the development of moral virtues. For example, prisoners who practice yoga show reduced stress, anxiety, and depression and increased positive moods in comparison to non-practitioners, and are less likely to be reincarcerated upon release. Similarly, mixed martial arts practice can help war veterans cope with anger, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and outbursts of violence.

A recent short documentary chronicles the annual marathon run by inmates in California’s San Quentin Prison (trailer above). Prisoners, whose offenses range from drug possession to first-degree murder, say running helps them relieve stress, clear their thoughts and sort out their lives. Some work through the problems in their daily lives and plan better ways to handle confrontations as they run. Others use their running time to meditate and escape mentally from the harsh realities of prison life.

Though the film doesn’t directly address recidivism, many of the effects of running are similar to those of yoga. Both physical activities allow inmates to focus on positive actions and decrease their stress and anxiety. It seems reasonable to assume running would play a similar role to yoga and MMA in helping to rehabilitate inmates’ behavior as well. Directed physical activity, in many forms, complements the development of moral virtue.