5 Reasons Why You Should Exercise after the Military Posted July 7, 2014 by Abby Reynolds

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One of the major challenges transitioning veterans face is maintaining an active lifestyle. Preparing the body for Physical Fitness Tests and wartime conditions used to be a top priority, but now veterans are tasked with looking for a job, supporting the family, or going back to school. Finding the time and motivation to work out proves difficult for many.

However, recent research on veteran health issues suggests staying active is just as important after veterans separate from the military. In 2012, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published a study indicating male veterans between the ages of 25 and 64 were more likely to classify their health as fair or poor than nonveterans. Veterans were also more likely to report having two or more chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and arthritis.

If you’re a veteran, one of the best things you can do to stay healthy and reduce your risk for future complications is adopting an exercise routine that fits your new lifestyle. Here are some of the important benefits you'll see by staying active after your period of service.

1. Improve your overall health

People who are physically active have slower, stronger heart rates, and their bodies rely on less oxygen to function. Basically, the more you move, the stronger your body will be, and the more efficiently it will run. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise can prevent or reduce your risk of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, high cholesterol, arthritis, heart disease and even cancer. In addition, exercise positively impacts your mental well-being. This article published by the Mayo Clinic explains that regular exercise stimulates the brain, causing you to feel relaxed, and helps combat feelings of depression.

2. Maintain a healthy weight

It's not uncommon for veterans to experience weight gain after they separate from the military, which increases the risk for chronic diseases later in life. One of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight is to adopt a routine that combines cardio-vascular exercise and strength training. Cardio workouts reduce body fat and increase your metabolism, which helps your body burn calories more efficiently. The Mayo Clinic says strength training can involve lifting free weights, completing body weight exercises, or using weight machines, and it's important to incorporate one of these options into your workout. You'll cut the excess fat, gain muscle and burn more calories.

3. Gain more energy

According to WebMD, exercise increases the blood flow to your brain, heart, and muscles, causing you to feel a boost of energy. If you have a busy day ahead, fitting in a quick workout will give you the energy you need to power through the day.  In addition, regular exercise strengthens your muscles and increases your endurance levels, which will enable your body to perform more difficult tasks without leaving you winded.

4. Increase your motivation  

For veterans struggling to adjust to life after the military, working out is a great way to establish a routine and adds structure to the day. Finishing a tough workout will make you feel accomplished and give you the motivation to apply for more jobs, pursue a new hobby, or finish a class assignment.

5. Work out on a budget

Veterans are used to working out on base for free, but exercising post-service doesn't have to break your budget. For cardio workouts, try jumping rope, or walking, running and biking around the neighborhood. For strength training, body work outs like pushups, crunches, and burpees are great exercises you can do at home. Dumbbells can also be purchased on the cheap for those who want to lift free weights. If you prefer working out in the gym, 24 Hour Fitness and Gold's Gym offer military discounts for veterans, as do many local community centers.

There are plenty of benefits to working out, but recognizing them is easier than committing to a regular fitness plan. Stay tuned for MVRC's next fitness article, which will provide tips on how to keep a work-out routine that fits with your new lifestyle.