FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 5, 2013) -- People choose to exercise for many reasons, from wanting to stay fit to increasing stamina to improving their physical physique, and one Fort Rucker man did all that and reached a milestone in the process.

John Edmunds, military retiree, hit the 1000-mile mark in Fort Rucker's Swim for Life program while swimming at the indoor pool at the Fort Rucker Physical Fitness Facility Aug. 28, and said it wasn't for the recognition, but for his health and Family.

"The main reason I swim is for my grandchildren," he said. "I want to be around to see them grow up and swimming will help me do that."

Edmunds suffered an aortic dissection about 4 years ago and underwent experimental surgery to remedy the issue.

"My surgeon told me that if I hadn't been in good shape from swimming, he wouldn't have even attempted the surgery," he said. "My daughter tells me that if I weren't swimming, I'd be dead by now, so swimming has literally saved my life."

Other benefits that Edmunds enjoys from exercising are less strain on his bones and joints because of the low-impact nature of swimming.

"My knees and ankles won't take the pounding from running and I can't do that anymore," said Edmunds. "Swimming is probably the best cardio-aerobic exercise that a person can do. It's a great way to exercise without any lateral difficulties to your body, particularly for someone that already has issues with their knees and ankles."

Edmunds was the first on Fort Rucker to reach the 1000-mile achievement and said that the achievements were a minimal factor in his motivation.

"To me, they're just miles," he said. "The miles are there just as something to count and there are a lot of people out there who swim a lot more than me."

It's because of one of those people that Edmunds got into swimming in the first place. A high school classmate, who was on a local swim team, urged him to join the team, and he continued swim until he joined the Army.

Many years later, he discovered the Swim for Life program and got back into the water.

"One of the lifeguards (here on Fort Rucker) reinstituted this program about five years ago, and I've participated in it since it started back up," he said. "I've been averaging about 200 miles per year and that's how I can now tell if I'm swimming too much or too little."

Swim for Life is a Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation program designed as a motivational tool to keep people fit for life, according to Jon Cole, DFMWR aquatic manager.

"It's basically what it sounds like -- it's swimming for life," he said. "We normally have about 50 participants that will get a badge for every 50 miles they swim up to 200."

After the 200-mile mark, participants are given recognition in 250-mile increments.

The Swim for Life program is open to all ages of authorized patrons.

"There is no age limit to participate in the program," said Cole. "We have some participants who are in their teens and some that are seniors. (The program) is really about finding something that you can do to help maintain your fitness throughout your lifetime."

For more information on Swim for Life, call 255-9162.