By Douglas Holl, USAPHCAugust 8, 2019
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Are you struggling to meet Army weight standards or need to improve your run time to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test or Army Combat Fitness Test? Maybe you just signed up for the Army Ten-Miler and would like to improve your performance.
Did you know there is a world-class team of experts at an Army Wellness Center near you with access to cutting-edge technology just waiting to help? No need to hire a personal trainer, your AWC offers free services and programs to help you meet your fitness goals.
Last year, AWCs served 60,000 clients and achieved a 97 percent client satisfaction rating, according to the Army Public Health Center's 2018 Health of the Force report. Program evaluations of AWC effectiveness have shown that individuals who participate in at least one follow-up AWC assessment experience improvements in their cardiorespiratory fitness, body fat percentage, body mass index, blood pressure and perceived stress.
Making improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness and body mass index are particularly important because increased levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and decreased levels of body mass index are associated with decreased musculoskeletal injury risk.
"The types of assessments provided at an AWC are world class," said Todd Hoover, division chief for Army Wellness Center Operations, Army Public Health Center. "If a client is interested in losing weight, AWCs provide an assessment called indirect calorimetry or simply metabolic testing. The test involves a client breathing into a mask for 15 minutes. After the test we can measure, with an extremely high accuracy, the total number of calories an individual needs to lose, gain or maintain weight. The information provided from this test is often the difference between someone reaching their goals or not."
There are currently 35 AWCs located at Army installations around the globe offering programs and services to Soldiers, family members, retirees and Department of Army civilians, said Hoover. AWCs are known for being innovative in the use of testing technology for health, wellness and physical performance.
Hoover said the best client for an AWC is a Soldier who is not meeting APFT/ACFT performance standards. Those with low or high body mass index plus poor run times are the highest risk populations. These individuals are the majority at risk for musculoskeletal injury, which account for more than 69 percent of all cause injuries in the Army.
One of the AWC's newest pieces of gear is a portable metabolic analyzer called the Cosmed K5. This system measures how well muscles use oxygen during any type of strenuous activity. From this measurement, AWC experts can determine how efficient the body is at using oxygen to produce energy and identify the exact threshold or intensity level an individual should train at to improve performance.
"Essentially the devices provide the most accurate measurement of aerobic performance," said Hoover. "From the testing, we can precisely advise a Soldier or family member the exact training intensity for them. What this means is there is no guessing. This is an exact physiological representation of the individual's needs for a particular activity. It doesn't get better than this."
AWCs are built on a foundation of scientific evidence, best practice recommendations and standards by leading health organizations to include the American College of Sports Medicine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, said Hoover. As a result, clients of AWCs receive highly individualized health and wellness services to improve overall health-related factors as well as enhanced performance through effective coaching strategies.
An article summarizing the effectiveness of the AWC program was recently submitted to the American Journal of Health Promotion, which recognized their success by selecting the article as a 2018 Editor's Pick.
"The staff academic and credentialing requirements surpass industry standards," said Hoover. "This means that each AWC health educator has completed advanced education plus achieved national board certification in related fields for delivering health promotion programs."
AWC health educators also undergo more than 320 hours of intensive core competency training prior to seeing their first client, said Hoover. Basic health coaching requires an additional 80 hours of training.
The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of Soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through studies, surveys and technical consultations.