Get moving: Be more than ‘fit to fight,’ get yourself fit for life!

  • Published
  • By Ms. Minda Smithers
  • Ellsworth Fitness Program Manager
The New Year is rapidly underway, and many of us are busy trying to keep our New Year’s resolutions of getting into shape, losing weight and eating better. Most people have great intentions, but unfortunately after two or three weeks, old habits are welcomed back and no long-term changes have been made.

Why is this?

I’m just as guilty of doing this as any other person out there, but this year I’ve made the resolution to not make any more resolutions — it’s too stressful.

However, I’ll continue to make changes throughout the year that I feel are needed, such as beefing up my workouts periodically, eating healthier (but not dieting!) and weaning myself off of my beloved Diet Coke!

I often wonder, if so many people know they need to get into better shape and establish a healthier lifestyle, why’s it so hard for them to stick with it, or even get started?

The benefits clearly outweigh the negatives.

Is it a lack of motivation or priority?

Maybe the environment isn’t conducive to help warrant change, maybe it’s a lack of knowledge on how to work out correctly and eat right, or perhaps it’s true, “Old habits die hard.”

The benefits of being fit are commonly known: fitness provides disease prevention, increased quality of life, increased work productivity and feeling better overall. Air Force leaders believe that being fit and being in the military go hand in hand, and they’re encouraging a culture that embraces that philosophy.

Being fit makes it easier to withstand desert heat while wearing a heavy pack, or working 12-hour shifts day after day. Even though it’s important to be “fit to fight,” we should also be a little selfish and become fit for ourselves, our spouses and our children.

It’s interesting that we’re aware of the importance of brushing our teeth everyday or even wearing our seat belts (both preventive measures for a healthier life), but when it comes to being in better physical shape, it’s often viewed as unimportant and not a priority due to busy schedules.

I think it may boil down to the truth that old habits can be hard to break.

The Air Force has now implemented mandatory physical training (PT), which is wonderful. If the mission allows, members are given up to 90 minutes of duty time to work out. Each unit commander is responsible for fostering that fit environment to increase the health of the troops and become a better “machine” for the mission.

I know in the perfect world of the fitness program this should all occur, but I also know the mission will always come first, so ultimately it’s your responsibility to be fit.

When it comes to health priorities, we need to put exercise and activity right up there with brushing our teeth.

I often hear that people can’t get away, their unit doesn’t have a PT program, or they just don’t want to work out. Understanding there can be obstacles, we need to realize being fit and healthy needs to become a priority, for there will always be some sort of obstacle in the way.

Look at your day and figure out when you can get in some activity, maybe cut out some TV time, or get up a half hour earlier — there are ways to fit in fitness.

Our military isn’t exempt from the fact that our society faces an obesity epidemic due to inactivity, which is now even affecting our children.

In fact, in 2003, 3,000 active-duty members from all branches were kicked out for weight issues.

We have to start changing the way we’re living! Many corporations are implementing wellness centers to help employees with stress management, weight loss and physical activity in order to keep health care costs down and work productivity up.

Like the Air Force, they’re realizing the importance of having healthy workers. That’s why there are so many free resources available for assistance in achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Each base has a health and wellness center (HAWC) staffed with an exercise physiologist to help individuals with their fitness needs, nutritional medicine to provide free nutritional counseling, and various educational classes such as diabetes education, weight loss or pre- and post-natal fitness.

The fitness center provides equipment and staff to help people start their exercise programs, and if going to classes are not up your alley, just start moving!

Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away in the parking lot to get extra walking in, get up and go down the hall to talk to co-workers instead of e-mailing them, get up and change the channel instead of using the remote, or just simply take a walk.

The more you can move, the more calories you’ll burn, the more your muscles will be utilized, and you may even lose some unwanted pounds. So just move it.

As the fitness program manager, I’m happy to report that 18 percent of our active duty on Ellsworth have tested in the excellent category, 76 percent tested in the good category and only 6 percent have tested in the poor or marginal categories (roughly 140 people).

Those 140 people who have been identified for extra assistance can make changes in their lifestyles in order to be “fit to fight.” With all the resources available to them (HAWC, fitness center, unit PT), anyone can change bad habits and develop good ones when it comes to fitness and nutrition.

It just takes a little effort, and the pay-off in health and happiness can be phenomenal!