Commentary by Lt. Col. Clark H. Risner
23rd Space Operations Squadron commander
Are you tired of hearing about fitness? Are you tired of the Air Force changing the standards every year or two? If you’re as old as me, you remember the days when we were laughed at for riding a stationary bike to measure our fitness. Those jabs not only came from our sister service members, but also from our friends and family in the private sector.
So what’s the big deal? Most of us in the 50th Space Wing have jobs that are not physically demanding. So why does the Air Force care about our fitness?
It’s all about the mission! As leaders, every decision we make is framed by what’s best for the mission. If a change in what we are doing or an emphasis of a particular area, say fitness, doesn’t enhance the mission, then we should not waste time on it. So each of us needs to answer the question, “how does better fitness enhance the 50 SW mission?”
We often focus our fitness discussion on physical fitness scores because that’s the yardstick the Air Force has determined to be an effective measure of overall health. I want to expand the discussion to include the side-benefits of keeping fit. For example, it has been estimated that 70 million workdays are lost each year to the common cold. What does exercise have to do with catching a cold? A recent study concluded that the reason people who exercise regularly get fewer colds is the increase in internal body temperature created by working out will actually kill-off weak bacteria and viruses. It is important to note the study defined regular exercise as four workouts per week where the individual developed a vigorous sweat for at least 20 minutes.
Now let’s turn our attention to excess weight.
I will admit I was a fat kid. I heard it all, “no, you’re just big boned,” or my personal favorite, “you’re not fat, you’re just husky.” My brother had it right as he sat across the dinner table and teased me about “going to get seconds”…I was fat! It is common knowledge that excess weight directly increases our risk of more than 50 different health problems including depression, back pain, heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is the solution is actually quite simple. Our weight is determined by the number of calories we put in our system versus the number of calories we burn in a given day. Exercise is a key component to that equation. Consider the 14-Olympic-gold-medal swimmer Michael Phelps. His training diet consisted of 12,000 calories per day…12,000! He spent five hours a day, six days a week swimming. We obviously can’t do that and get the mission done. Since we all have different body types and metabolic rates, it is up to each individual to figure out their personal calorie-exercise balance point. The Health and Wellness Center is a great resource to help with this…and it’s free!
To drop weight, you have to prevent excess calories from coming in and exercise more. Trust me, I know it’s not easy…but you can do it! I’ve seen it first-hand here at New Boston. One member of our security forces contractor team has lost 100 pounds in the last nine months! He didn’t get a lap band, have liposuction, or starve himself. When asked the secret to his success, he’s quick to say, “I simply ate less and exercised more.” I am convinced his transformation has motivated eight of our Air Force Satellite Control network operators to compete in a biggest loser-style contest. To date, they have lost a total of 96 pounds! The most encouraging thing is the contest doesn’t end until July. Hopefully this will result in lifestyle changes instead of flash loss and rebound.
Every day you miss because of illness, injury or poor fitness is a lost day of productivity to the Mission, a day lost forever! Find what motivates you and get after it…our mission needs you to be fit!