Get "Fit to Fight" with human-powered transportation

  • Published
  • By Capt. Joy Schaubhut
  • 71st Medical Operations Support Squadron aerospace physiologist
A current hot topic in the Air Force now is the new pass or fail change to the fitness program and the fact the new performance reports will document annual fitness scores. It is more important than ever to Get Out and Get Fit!

Most of us can relate to the feeling our days are usually off-the-charts hectic and there never seems to be an end in sight. I'll bet for many of you, one of the first things to fall off your priority list is exercise; if so, I feel your pain. I'm continually irritated at myself for not getting enough workouts in per week. When we think of overall fitness, diet and exercise easily come to mind, but one of the best ways to improve overall fitness is through behavior modification. It can greatly enhance our ability to remain "fit to fight" in today's Air Force.

What's behavior modification? The best example I can come up with is limiting the amount of television you watch to improve overall fitness. Other examples are taking walks after dinner, using stairs instead of elevators and parking your car further away from buildings.

The idea of behavior modification is to make small changes in everyday life that cause you to sit less and move more. It takes me 10 to 15 minutes to drive six miles to work; it takes me 25 to 30 minutes to ride my bike the same six miles. If I ride to and from work I get about 50 minutes of cardio exercise per day. Cycling is actually more efficient than any other mode of travel; in fact, 100 calories can power a cyclist for three miles.

I've ridden my bike to work and to run errands around town before, so on a limited scale, I think I can imagine what life would be like without a car. Starting Monday, I am going to park my car for one month and, except for very few exceptions, rely on my bicycle for transportation and write articles about my experiences.

During this adventure I am going to follow several rules of engagement. If there is dangerous inclement weather, I will hitch a ride to or from work. If I go to the grocery store, to a restaurant, to get a latte, etc. I will either ride my bike or walk. The only exceptions are if my bike is temporarily out of working condition, if I go out of town or if I have to move something bigger than what my bike can handle. While riding my bike on- or off-base I will follow base regulations; I will wear a DOT-approved bike helmet and full -toed shoes. If I will be riding in the dark, I will wear some type of reflective gear and put a head light on my bike.

I'm not suggesting you do something as drastic as giving up your car for one month; I'm suggesting you fill empty minutes from your day with activities which will help improve your overall fitness. Behavior modification is tough, and you may not see immediate progress, but stick with your changes and be patient and eventually you will improve your human performance. Whatever activities you decide to fill your empty minutes with, please do them safely.