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The Trip From Slug to Fit

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2001 – You've been a slug all winter long and now the PT test is staring you in the face. What do you do?

Well, you don't go out and start running at the same pace and distance you did in October.

Musculoskeletal injuries are a rising concern to DoD, said Diana Settles, program manager for injury prevention and physical fitness for the Navy Environmental Health Center. "The primary internal risk factor for injuries is the lack of physical fitness of the individual," she said. "These individuals will begin participating in activities or organized sporting events without having a foundation of physical fitness. That predisposes them to injury."

Settles said many service members become "weekend PT warriors" She said that places stress on the body. "And the body responds, sometimes in a negative way," she said.

Service members are damaging their ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones. Most injuries happen to service members' legs, she said.

"We're seeing a lot of injuries to the knees and ankles," Settles said. "The most common injuries are sprains, which are partial or complete tears of the ligament; strains, which are partial tears of tendons or muscles (also known as muscle pulls); and fractures, dislocations and bruises."

She said service members can help prevent injuries by not doing so much too soon.

"You really want to begin aerobically," she said. "If you have not done anything, you want to move into conditioning gradually. You don't want to place too much stress on the body at first. Get a good pair of walking shoes or running shoes. Start, and then gradually increase your time and pace. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends every American should exercise at least 30 minutes of accumulated moderate activity (such as walking, housework, gardening, etc.) per day, five days a week.

"If you've done no running, start with walking and move to running. The same kind of moderation is true with sit-ups or push-ups -- if you haven't been doing them, start low and work you're way up."

Service members who have questions about what type of conditioning program to use have many avenues to explore on local installations. "The Morale, Welfare and Recreation staff have really concentrated on improving their trained staff, Settles said. "Many MWR instructors are certified, and they can provide safe and effective guidelines for service members."

Local medical facilities can offer help not only with exercise programs, but with nutrition and body fat management advice, stress management and tobacco cessation.

For more information on designing a physical fitness program, point your Web browser to http://www-nehc.med.navy.mil.

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