GRF CoverGovernment Recreation & Fitness


June 2013
'Leaner and Meaner '

The phrase “leaner and meaner” has a dual meaning here, as it relates just as perfectly to the current fiscal condition in Washington as it does to the way service members and government employees are physically training today. In terms of physical and combat readiness, high-intensity interval training has replaced the long, endurance-based workouts of the past.

The old adage, “slow and steady wins the race,” does not apply anymore, as a mountain of research is piling up supporting the theory that shorter, more intense workouts trump longer, moderate- or low-intensity sessions, in terms of calorie expenditure, fatburning power and metabolic improvements.

More importantly, the same and possibly better results can be achieved in half the time. And the science is there to back it.

Research recently published in the International Journal of Epidemiology indicates that “vigorous-intensity physical activity” for 75 minutes per week is more beneficial than “moderate-intensity physical activity” for 150 minutes per week, even if the same number of calories is burned.

Fitness chiefs from each service have embraced the concept of vigorous, combatspecific exercise, as opposed to the long runs of the past, which military medical fitness experts found led to an unacceptable number of training injuries, and warranted a reexamining of the way the military trains its service members. The Marine Corps High Intensity Tactical Training (HITT) program, for example, which has rolled out Marine Corps-wide, is founded on this “leaner and meaner” approach, changing the culture of fitness for Marines, and preparing them more like combat athletes.

With “lack of time” being one of the top reasons given by people as to why they do not exercise, these findings take on a broader application too, as one area the government can save money on is healthcare expenses, which are skyrocketing, along with the prevalence of preventable ailments, conditions and diseases.

Clearly, the research is there to support an approach that focuses more on prevention than treatment. For example, a recent study found that men who are fit in middle-age are less likely later in life to get lung or colorectal cancer, and less likely to die from prostate, lung or colorectal cancers. Interestingly, the men (average age of 49) in the test group who performed the best on the treadmill test had a 68 percent lower risk of lung cancer and a 38 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer later in life.

These findings come on the heels of research indicating that those who are fit at mid-life have fewer chronic diseases in their Medicare years, and spend less time with these diseases.

“Studies suggest, every dollar spent on workplace wellness programs reduces employer medical costs by approximately $3.27 and absenteeism costs by approximately $2.73,” notes Dr. Leonard Jack Jr., Ph.D., M.Sc., who recently took over as director of the Division of Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Moreover, the CDC calculates that more than half of American adults have at least one chronic illness, and that 75 cents of every dollar spent nationally on health care is focused on chronic diseases, many of which are preventable.

At a time when return-on-investment is the bottom line, it is findings such as these — in addition to the success stories of those who are pioneers in the area of prevention and health promotion within the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and elsewhere in the federal government — that provide a glimmer of hope, a point on the horizon to stride toward.