April 14, 2016 – It can be hard to keep up with your fitness after leaving the force, but there are ways to keep fit. For instance, the second Invictus Games for wounded, injured, or sick armed services personnel is due to take place in Florida next month. Invictus means ‘unconquered’ or ‘invincible’, and the Paralympic-style event will see competitors from more than a dozen countries, including the US, UK, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Afghanistan, vying for supremacy in a wide range of sports. It can be hard to keep up with your fitness after leaving the force, but it’s worth it.
David Wiseman, UK team captain and a former Captain in the British Army, said: “I think the Invictus Games is a shining example of what this community can achieve, a group of individuals from around the world coming together in order to show everyone that beyond injury, they can achieve the extraordinary.”
Ivan Castro, Team USA’s team captain at the first Invictus Games in 2014 and a returning team member this year, sustained life-threatening injuries and was blinded by mortar shells during his service. True to the Invictus spirit, he refused to be beaten by his experiences and said: “I can’t see, but in my eyes the grass is always green and the sun is always shining. I don’t have a disability, I have a limitation.”
The Army vet was inspired to create a series of events to inspire team-work and resilience while at the same time paying tribute to fallen and wounded service personnel, firefighters, and first responders. These events include a kids’ obstacle run called Little Muddy, a 5k obstacle run loaded with mud, dirt, and military-style challenges and an all-day ‘Esprit de Corps’ challenge adventure race.
Everywhere you look through the Invictus Games teams, there are competitors who can serve as shining inspirations, but you don’t have to be battling back from injury, or have your sights set on sporting triumph to be concerned with post-service health and fitness. According to an article published on the U.S. Army website,, Army Public Health Command data estimates that former personnel experience an average weight gain of four pounds during their first year after service. If this level of weight gain was allowed to continue unchecked, it could lead to serious problems in the future. Around half of the Army retirees who were weighed and measured at military treatment facilities last year had a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, making them officially classed as obese. The rate of obesity was twice as high for retires as for those still on active duty.
Lt. Col. Sandra Keelin, a registered dietitian at the U.S. Army Public Health Command, said: “It is most likely attributed to a combination of factors such as a decrease in physical activity or not adjusting caloric intake once you leave the military.”
It can be easy to slip into bad habits once you leave the service. The first week or two is often a time of indulgence, enjoying a lie-in with no one to force you out of bed or into a physical training session. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing for a brief period. The transition from service to civilian life can be extremely challenging and somewhat stressful, but it’s important to retain a sense of discipline when it comes to your fitness. This can actually help reduce stress, which can in turn help in making that transition to civilian employment as well as in many other areas of your new life.
Many former personnel do of course leave the Forces with injuries or other health issues. Medical or health professionals can help you come up with a health or fitness program to match your own specific requirements. It’s also important to get the right kit, from cutting edge prosthetics to sporting supports. Companies like Tommie Copper Inc. can supply vital pieces of equipment like a back brace that can help facilitate exercise without causing a strain or exacerbating existing conditions.
Whatever your own physical and personal circumstances, you can reap major health benefits without feeling like you’re being put through the APFT every day of the week. The American Heart Association says that just 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or even 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise, is enough to significantly improve overall cardiovascular health. That’s an average of just over 20 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, every day.
There’s no need to stop at the minimum, of course. Running, joining a gym, or taking up a sport can all be hugely beneficial activities, and a balanced, sensible diet can also work wonders. It’s easy to let yourself go after leaving the service, but with a little effort, you can keep up your fitness levels.