Civilian fitness program helps keep Army healthy

Todd Goodman
LRMC Public Affairs

A healthy fighting force is an effective fighting force and that concept is not limited solely to the military. Loads of civilian personnel support the mission behind the scenes and now they, too, can get the PT going.

The program is open Europe-wide to all GS or local nationals who work for the Army. It allows civilians who qualify to leave work an hour early on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to work out at the participating gym. The hour off is, however, limited to six months. There is no extension or opportunity to rejoin the program later, but the hope is that the six months will spur participants to continue working out on their own.

“They can get paid to get into shape,” said Cathy Douglas, health promotion coordinator for the Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine. “We encourage them to make lifestyle changes by becoming more physically active.”

The reason the program lasts six months is because studies have shown that for true behavioral changes it takes about that long, she said. After that it becomes part of a person’s lifestyle.

Positive results and good word of mouth have kept the program popular and growing amongst the civilian workforce.

“I really was motivated to do well on the program because I had gained so much weight after the birth of my son,” said Angel Solomon, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center command group secretary, who recently participated in the program. “The program was available so I jumped at the opportunity.”
Prior to jumping at the opportunity, would-be participants must undergo a fitness assessment. Normal stuff like blood pressure, body mass index, cardio recovery rate and a flexibility assessment must be checked off before an “Okay” is given. They also must have their bosses sign off on them leaving work an hour early.

“We keep these measurements and six months later they come in for a final assessment,” said Ms. Douglas. “That way they can see how much they have improved and what they need to continue working on.”

Positive results, like when the person sees how much his blood pressure has dropped or how much baggier his pants are, will help him continue after the six months has ended.

“I lost 18 pounds, a couple of dress sizes,” said Mrs. Solomon. “The people who have already done this program wish that they could do it again. I wish they would offer the program again because it is so easy to fall off of the wagon. But I am continuing to exercise three times per week on my own. I definitely have more energy and endurance.”

And on a sheer “How does this benefit the company?” level, fitter employees will be at a lower injury of risk and time off due to sickness will decline, said Ms. Douglas.