Contributing authors: Marti Yoshida, Maria Yager and Angie Thorne

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (June 29, 2018)- The end of May marked the wrap up of the annual Army Strong B.A.N.D.S fitness campaign. With a focus on balance, activity, nutrition, determination and strength, the program brought in staggering numbers.

Sixty eight garrison locations held a total of 394 programs with a whopping number of 69,807 participants who joined the fitness movement in May.

Strong B.A.N.D.S is hosted by the Family and Morale, Wellness and Recreation department of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command.

There were events for all ages. Fort Polk, in Louisiana, held a Child and Youth Services Kids run on Armed Forces day. A total of 169 children took part of the fun run. The event had various competitions including long jump, jump rope, pull-ups and a 100 yard dash.

Jazmine Sartain, the mother of a child who participated, signed her son up for the event as a chance to introduce him to competition and the joy of sports.

"I registered my son for the run because I wanted him to come out and have fun. I'm a runner and I wanted him to have the chance to run in the event. It's not about winning or the medals, it's about having a good time," Sartain said.

Children like Mylasia Johnson participated to find out their athletic abilities.

"I wanted to compete in all of the events today, especially the 100 yard dash. I wanted to see how fast my time was because I want to train to go to the Olympics to compete in that event," Johnson said.

Story Walk is another activity geared towards getting children active while having fun and learning.

Laminated pages from children's books are attached to wooden stakes and installed along an outdoor path. The child reads a page then walks to get to the next one until the story is finished.

The walk is a unique way to get children involved in the month's fitness initiative.

Various gyms at garrisons teamed up with the Strong B.A.N.D.S campaign to bring more awareness to the classes and programs offered at their facilities.

Fort Leonard Wood, in Missouri, held events all month long. At the end of the month, Davidson Fitness Center hosted the Strong Weekend where a variety of classes were offered from yoga to body boot camp. A total of 64 patrons took part to get fit.

Karen Robinson, a recreation aid through Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Davidson Fitness Center, said the main point of the event it to just get to the gym and try a class.

Robinson understands the initial fear of a gym that some patrons might experience. When she moved to Missouri five years ago she had no idea what she was going to do until her husband suggested the gym.

"I never worked out," Robinson said. "The classes are what brought me in here. So, what started as working out one day a week turned into six days a week."

Class instructor at Davidson Fitness Center, Ina Keazer De Aponte, understands the importance of the Strong B.A.N.D.S program.

"It is important to take care of our body, and the older you get, the better your eating habits need to be," she said. "You need to be working out. Our body is like our house, so we need to take care of our house regardless of how old we are."

Keazer De Aponte, an instructor for four years, taught the ripped class during Strong Weekend. The class consist of cardio, weight training and martial arts.

Strong B.A.N.D.S is also an opportunity to learn about nutrition, an important part of caring for our bodies.

Fort Campbell, in Kentucky, held a Fueling for Health class at the garrison's Army Wellness Center. The Army Wellness Center has aided patrons including Army spouse Leah Hernandez.

"I think everybody should go through a nutrition class. Having the education on what you're supposed to eat changes what it is you do eat," Hernandez said. "It gives you a good sense of what you should be eating and what you shouldn't."

Hernandez has lost 20 pounds since utilizing services at the wellness center. She discovered a routine workout schedule is not enough to help with weight loss.

"I used some of the different assessments at the center and as it turned out, I wasn't eating enough calories," said Hernandez

With the use of the center's metabolic testing and nutrition and dietary information from the Fueling for Health class, Hernandez increased her calorie intake to 1,900 calories a day and began to lose weight.

This year's fitness movement educated and inspired many patrons nationwide at garrisons. The participation grew by 40 percent compared to last year. Strong B.A.N.D.S will continue to spread fun fitness and health awareness next year.