Focus on Fitness in the Air Force Reserve

Article excerpt

What do professional football players and combat-ready Air Force Reservists have in common? The answer is they both have to be fit to perform their mission. The Air Force has always recognized the value of investing in fitness facilities, equipment and programs; however, recent evaluations suggest that up to 70 percent of Air Force members may lead sedentary lifestyles. The key to improving these statistics is to educate military members that physical fitness is a positive health-enhancing factor indelibly linked to military readiness.

According to the chief of human resources and training for the Air Force Reserve Morale, Welfare, Recreation and Services Directorate (MWRS), Dick Sans, "While physical fitness is a commander's program, it is the individual's inherent responsibility to maintain a high level of fitness. In a world that runs off fast food, high stress and the couch-potato syndrome, we have to do a better job in educating military members about their own health, and in encouraging them to incorporate good fitness and nutritional practices into their lifestyles."

Robert Bemis, director of MWRS, Headquarters Air Force Reserve, agrees. "We have made a commitment to fitness in the Reserve and it's MWRS' mission to make a fit combat ready force a reality." During Desert Storm, it became clear once again that Air Force reservists were a vital part of our combat ready force and had to be as physically fit as active duty members. The rigorous schedules followed during combat in Southwest Asia started a renewed commitment throughout the Active and Reserve Air Force concerning physical fitness.

The Air Force Reserve is practicing what it preaches through a step-by-step approach to fitness education. It now has its own six-day intensive physical fitness assessment/exercise/nutrition training course. Why does the Reserve develop some of its own training courses versus using the Air Education Training Command (AETC) Schools? The answer is simple: Reservists have special needs. Reserve members have primary civilian jobs and commitments, and in many cases are unable to attend AETC schools because of their length. The Air Force Reserve feels that they need the six-day fitness course to conduct fitness assessments and develop fitness programs for members of their unit.

Military forces have a strong tradition for being physically fiL It is critical for accomplishing their mission. This is also being emphasized by civilian industry. Companies like 3M, Mesa, and Adolph Coors Company realize that there are significant benefits to having a physically fit and healthy work force. Benefits include increased productivity, less absenteeism and lower insurance rates, to name a few.

Developing an AFRES physical fitness course was a headquarters initiative to tie together three aspects of wellness: physical fitness assessment, exercise, and nutrition. Mark and Beth Woodard, two physiologists with the 939th Mission Support Squadron at Portland, assisted Dick Sans with the development of the course.

In the course, students are taught five methods to accurately assess a person's fitness level. These include a body fat component, muscular endurance component, flexibility component, cardiovascular endurance component, and blood pressure component. The first two and 1/2 days of instruction incorporate training in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, effects of training, fitness workout methods, training target heart rate formulas, circuit weight training, and nutrition. The goal is to train students to evaluate individual fitness levels, to help plan exercise regimes and to establish good nutritional habits. The course covers five major components--warm up/cool-down/stretching/flexibility, aerobics, strength with weights/ equipment, strength without weights/equipment, and nutrition. The focus is not only on teaching students why they need to know the basics to help others plan a good fitness lifestyle, but also on the how-to of obtaining good fitness. …