By Robert Gobble, Area I Health and Fitness DirectorAugust 15, 2013
CAMP RED CLOUD -- The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed stress as one of the ten social determinants of health.
The WHO notes that stressful circumstances, making people feel worried, anxious, and unable to cope are extremely damaging to overall health and may lead to premature death.
Long periods of anxiety and insecurity, low self-esteem, social isolation, and lack of control over work and home life have powerful effects on health.
With that in mind, public health studies indicate that military life can be very stressful for all involved including spouses and children. Now let's look at some aspects of stress directly related to the U.S. Army population.
War is intentionally the most stressful of human activities. The enemy is deliberately trying to break our will to fight -- to stress us until we can no longer do our combat jobs.
Mental and physical fitness help soldiers to endure the stress of combat. But soldiers will still have fear and other unpleasant feelings before, during, and after battle.
These combat stress reactions are called "battle fatigue" because they are a natural result of the hard mental and emotional work of facing danger under tough conditions.
Battle fatigue may interfere with mission performance. It may even become so severe that the soldier must be sent to medical units for evaluation and treatment. When that happens, the soldier is a temporary "battle fatigue casualty".
Physical fitness programs are useful in promoting unit cohesion, but they are also important in themselves as protection against battle fatigue and as an effective measure to maintain stress control.
Being super fit is not a guarantee against disabling battle fatigue, but it does increase self-confidence (and the confidence of buddies), and delays the onset of muscular fatigue.
Not being physically fit is an invitation for it. Sudden overuse of a cardiovascular system, muscles, joints and bones that have not been prepared for the strain can lead to immediate failure and serious injury.
Even if these are avoided, the person will be subject to days of stiffness, aching and weakness.
During this time, unfit soldiers are at very high risk for battle fatigue even if further demands aren't made on them.
Those in charge as leaders need to assure that everyone in the unit has not only endurance and strength, but also the necessary muscle capacity in the parts of the body which they will use in their combat role.
They also need the necessary flexibility, agility, balance, coordination, stamina, and speed to accomplish tasks more efficiently.
For soldiers who possess an overall general physical preparedness, these individuals are less likely to be exposed to injuries which can impact negatively on mission accomplishment.
By having fewer injuries to cope with, health is enhanced and results in reduced stress levels and less worry and anxiety.
Combating stress through super fitness is imperative to health in both peaceful and war-time environments.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of physical fitness and its direct correlation to maintaining stress control and overall physical and mental health.