AWCs are perfect accountability partners for Soldiers, family members who want improve their fitness

By Douglas Holl, Army Public Health CenterAugust 3, 2022

Sgt. 1st Class Justin Woodward, CMF88 Career Management NCO with the 508th Transportation Training Detachment at Fort Lee, Virginia, and his spouse Diellen Couto de Oliveira perform the grip strength test portion of the physical fitness assessment July 26, 2022. The assessment is a screening tool used by the Fort Lee AWC team for the measurement of upper body strength and overall strength.  (U.S. Army photo courtesy Fort Lee Army Wellness Center)
Sgt. 1st Class Justin Woodward, CMF88 Career Management NCO with the 508th Transportation Training Detachment at Fort Lee, Virginia, and his spouse Diellen Couto de Oliveira perform the grip strength test portion of the physical fitness assessment July 26, 2022. The assessment is a screening tool used by the Fort Lee AWC team for the measurement of upper body strength and overall strength. (U.S. Army photo courtesy Fort Lee Army Wellness Center) (Photo Credit: Fort Lee Army Wellness Center) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – One of the most challenging parts of pursuing any fitness goal is sustaining the long-term commitment needed to accomplish them. One trend in the fitness world is to find an accountability partner to share goals with in order to maintain focus and commitment. Some Army couples have found a great partner right at home – their spouse.

“We have an extremely disciplined approach in order to achieve our goals,” said Sgt. 1st Class Justin Woodard, CMF88 Career Management NCO with the 508th Transportation Training Detachment at Fort Lee, Virginia. “For us there is no Plan B. It is something that we take very seriously, and we have a challenge between us to push the other one.”

Another key partner who helps them stay on task and achieve their goals is their Fort Lee Army Wellness Center health educator.

“Our AWC Team first reviews the client’s goals to identify strengths and barriers in reaching the goal while identifying opportunities for additional AWC services,” said Randi Rogerson, Fort Lee AWC director. “For example, this particular client was interested in achieving weight loss, and during the initial appointment, Fort Lee AWC health educator Danielle Spragley assessed that she was not doing any exercise, but was interested in beginning an exercise routine.”

Spragley worked with Woodward’s spouse, Diellen Couto de Oliveira, to complete a physical fitness assessment to get her baseline numbers of fitness and provide feedback on areas for improvement. She also recommended and provided the Resting Metabolic Rate, or RMR, testing for the client to get an accurate daily caloric intake which was a monumental contribution to her success, said Rogerson.

Rogerson says it takes about one to three months for clients to start achieving their weight loss goals, and the average client loses about 1-2 pounds per week if they are dedicated to the necessary lifestyle modification and healthy lifestyle changes. This translates into about 1-2 percent body fat reduction every 30 days as measured by the BodPod, a large egg-shaped, seated device that uses air displacement plethysmography, or ADP, to determine body composition (fat mass and lean mass).

“All of our AWC health educators and health promotion technicians agree the key to success is consistency,” said Rogerson. “The AWC is a tremendous resource to provide support and feedback.”

Rogerson also says one 60-minute class just isn’t enough to produce needed improvement.

“Many Army Leaders with whom we interact prioritize the Army People First initiative and reach out to the AWC to provide health education to Soldiers to improve readiness and resilience within the unit,” said Rogerson. “But for most, one 60-minute, interactive class on a health education topic is not enough emphasis to promote necessary behavior change to produce health improvements; therefore, we emphasize our contribution is to regularly remain within the unit’s footprint.”

About 30 percent of Fort Lee AWC clients schedule their appointments together as couples or the spouses attend separate appointments but both are active AWC clients, said Sierra Hale, Fort Lee AWC health promotion technician.

“They are the experts and are willing to share everything and anything they can, talk with you, explain how it all works and what you need to do to achieve your goals,” said Woodard. “The staff take their time to give you all this great knowledge and help, and it doesn’t seem right not to put all that science to good use and really go after your goal.”

Hale explained they routinely promote their availability for military families when working with Soldiers who come in for AWC services.

“For example, we provide walk-in BodPod opportunities every Friday, and the AWC team reminded two Soldiers who completed a BodPod assessment that dependents are also welcome,” said Hale. “A few hours later, both dependents arrived at the AWC to complete a BodPod and schedule further AWC appointments.”

When working with clients who have weight loss goals, the Fort Lee AWC team says health coaching is a huge contributor to client success.

“Health coaching is incorporated within each AWC appointment to continuously get to know the client, get to know their goals, and help them create action plans to achieve those goals,” said Spragley.

Spragley shared an experience she had with a soldier who visited the AWC in February and wanted to lose body fat and improve his performance on the Army Combat Fitness Test. He completed a BodPod and RMR testing and reviewed the results. The soldier then applied the information by tracking his daily caloric intake and increased exercise frequency. As a result, he lost 8 percent body fat (15lbs of fat) in three months and said his ACFT and run performance improved after incorporating more healthy foods into his diet.

“Soldiers and family members don’t really understand what this place can do for them, especially if they want to get in shape or just see where they stand,” said Woodard. “The first thing someone who wants to get in shape wants to do is go get a personal trainer.  That’s great, but how do you know when and where you are making progress if you don’t have that baseline reading, which is exactly what AWC can give you. I encourage all the people I work with to go to the AWCs along with their families.”

Fort Lee, Virginia,  Army Wellness Center Health Educator Danielle Spragley, adjusts the VO2 Mask used to determine cardiovascular fitness levels for Sgt. 1st Class Justin Woodward, CMF88 Career Management NCO with the 508th Transportation Training Detachment at Fort Lee, Virginia, during the treadmill portion of his physical fitness test July 26, 2022. Fort Lee’s AWC health educators are a key partner in helping Woodward meet his fitness goals. (U.S. Army photo courtesy Fort Lee Army Wellness Center).
Fort Lee, Virginia, Army Wellness Center Health Educator Danielle Spragley, adjusts the VO2 Mask used to determine cardiovascular fitness levels for Sgt. 1st Class Justin Woodward, CMF88 Career Management NCO with the 508th Transportation Training Detachment at Fort Lee, Virginia, during the treadmill portion of his physical fitness test July 26, 2022. Fort Lee’s AWC health educators are a key partner in helping Woodward meet his fitness goals. (U.S. Army photo courtesy Fort Lee Army Wellness Center). (Photo Credit: Fort Lee Army Wellness Center) VIEW ORIGINAL

Some key services provided by AWCs include:

  • The Body Composition Testing (BodPod): Determines amount of fat free mass and fat mass
  • Resting Metabolic Rate Assessment (RMR): Determine the number of calories a client is burning at complete rest to determine individual caloric need to achieve weight management goals
  • Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA): Provides feedback regarding the client’s aerobic, strength, and flexibility fitness.
  •  Individual Stress Management Training: Utilizes emWave Biofeedback technology to better understand and control the body's internal responses to physical and external factors through learned stress management techniques.

Rogerson says the BodPod test, which is conducted every 30 days, is valuable in tracking client progress on weight management goals to determine successors and continued opportunities for improvement.

Following the RMR assessment, Rogerson says they schedule a follow-up appointment for weight management education.

The PFA, which is conducted every 90 days, helps AWC health educators provide exercise improvement plans and feedback, said Rogerson.

The secret sauce for maximized success in any situation is having partners for accountability and providing support and encouragement, said Rogerson.

“We have a retiree couple who have been using the Fort Lee AWC since 2018 and have lost and maintained a combined 62 pounds of body weight (15 percent body fat) by making healthy meals and exercising together. The husband has expressed that his wife assisting him in making healthy meals taste good has greatly attributed to his success.”

Woodard agreed.

“If you really want to know your body and what you can do to be at the optimal level of health then I would highly suggest you go to the AWC,” said Woodard. “Do not worry about what the scale says or what the tape reads. You need to start somewhere. This is that place to get it started to become healthier or just see where you are at physically.”

The Army Public Health Center AWC Operations page has information about AWC services and links to all of the AWCs across the entire Army enterprise.

The Army Public Health Center enhances Army readiness by identifying and assessing current and emerging health threats, developing and communicating public health solutions, and assuring the quality and effectiveness of the Army’s Public Health Enterprise.

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