BE WELL program helps elevate personal fitness

by Kimberly L. Wright
Air University Public Affairs

1/14/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- A class at the Health and Wellness Center is designed to help those needing a fitness boost.

The Air Force BE WELL -- Balanced Eating, Work Out Effectively, Living Longer -- program takes a multidisciplinary approach to education, said Tech. Sgt. Henry Myers, a diet technician with the HAWC.

During the three-hour course, held every Thursday, three instructors tackle different aspects of health and wellness. Sergeant Myers teaches performance nutrition, exercise physiologist Michele Pittman covers physical activity, and Dr. Ardis Cecil, a psychologist with the 42nd Medical Group, imparts tactics for behavioral modification.
The class educates with a blend of lecture and discussion, including PowerPoint slides and activities based on the participant guide. Each instructor is allotted 50 minutes to cover their topic, with a five-minute break between each section.

The course is open to all; however, "members who fail PT are automatically signed up to BE WELL through the fitness assessment cell, but sometimes members with low passing scores attend as well," Sergeant Hayes said.

Revisions to the Air Force fitness program, which took effect July 2010, elevated the fitness standards for Airmen. The Air Force Personnel Center stated that servicemembers must take part in twice-a-year fitness tests, and minimum requirements, including a score of 75 or higher, must be met for each component.
The exercise portion teaches participants "the health risk involved in inactivity," said Ms. Pittman. Members assess their present fitness level and, guided by instruction, design a fitness program.

"It is a fitness program designed by them so they will be committed," she said. "They also set personal fitness goals in all areas of their fitness to keep them focused on success."
The performance nutrition portion covers general nutrition, with an emphasis on boosting performance or increasing metabolism, "for example eating five to six small meals instead of three big ones, adding a post-work snack for recovery especially on strength training days," said Sergeant Hayes. He also leads the class through a food label exercise and touches on the hazards of energy drinks and supplements - "not that I'm anti supplements," he said. "It's just that I can't recommend them because there's not enough science-based evidence to prove they work."

Dr. Cecil covers the behavioral portion of the class, which includes "[the] effort to keep new behaviors 'on the radar screen,' obstacles to change, problem-solving process and goal setting."

She noted that goals need to follow the acronym SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and trackable. Other topics include assertiveness, social support, motivation, resources and the importance of tracking progress.

BE WELL, which started in July 2010, has had about 250 participants, said Sergeant Hayes.
"The results are hard to track because it's not a continuous program that follows the members' progress, but the feedback from their comment cards has been very positive," reported Sergeant Hayes.