FORT LEWIS, Wash. - It was an "aloha" sort of day April 30 at Sheridan Sports and Fitness Center for Installation Management Command civilian employees. About 140 who began a unique fitness program last September saw it end, while a second phase for others began.

Participants whose supervisors agreed to three hours of regular exercise per week during duty hours came to the fitness center for final measurements of blood pressure, cardio fitness, body fat and flexibility, while others moved among the stations for their initial evaluations.

Arclancia Montgomery with the risk reduction program at Command Army Substance Abuse Program, Drug and Alcohol, appreciated the boost the program gave to her cardio fitness.

"Because I've exercised a lot in the past, my weight tends to stay the same," Montgomery said, "but my cardio improved. Now I can do an hour on the treadmill, an hour on the stair climber, so my cardio improved drastically; it went from 120 down to 93."

For others, the program helped them shed unwanted pounds.

"Exercising has always been part of my life, but I would exercise and never be able to lose weight," said Thomas Ebright of Fort Lewis Directorate of Logistics. "I was always just kind of stuck. Now that I'm retired I don't get to run every day, so it's getting me back to running on the treadmill. To me it's made a difference. I've lost seven pounds. I'm happy about it. I haven't lost seven pounds in I can't remember (how long)."

For Debera Porter of Individual Training Branch in the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, a coach to set her exercise regimen in the right direction was most helpful to her.

"The idea that I could work out and get a trainer (was the best thing)," Porter said. "I needed to have somebody push me a little more. It was convenient for me. I didn't make my goal but I came close to it. Before it would take me 30 minutes to do a mile, now I'm able to do a couple miles in that time limit."

Most showed improvement in some if not all evaluated areas. The feedback, said Cindy Branton, the Fort Lewis health promotion officer, was overwhelmingly positive. She manned the final station, pulling together the results for participants and answering questions that the Army Public Nursing staff from Madigan Army Medical Center, the Directorate of Family, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation volunteers and the Sheridan Sports and Fitness Center staff could not.

"Everybody has been real appreciative," Branton said. "This is a six-month program that they would like to see them do it all the time."

The program cuts both ways, she said, in providing benefit for the participants, their direct supervisors and the government overall.

"Statistics say if they're exercising, employees are more productive," Branton said. "There is 'presenteeism' when you're present at work but you're not actually doing anything. Statistics show that when they're exercising, they feel better, they're healthier and they're more productive the hours they are at work. And stress levels decrease."

As the initial group of IMCOM participants got their results, the new ones completed their screens. With the program apparently succeeding in its goals to improve morale, relieve stress and minimize health risks while creating fitter employees, some said they would like to see more of a good thing.

"This is my recommendation coming from Arclancia Montgomery, Command ASAP, I recommend that we be allowed to participate in this program all year long, not just one time for six months. Because I want to tell you, I rarely ever, ever had to call in sick. I think it's beneficial for the Army and would save them a lot of money."

Branton's office has moved to Building 2026A on Fort Lewis, Room 204. Contact her at 967-7668 or e-mail

Don Kramer is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.