ZABUL PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Soldiers deployed to Zabul, Afghanistan are trading in their fast food and french-fried habits for free weights and fitness.
Since deploying from Fort Wainwright, Alaska to Zabul in April many of the nearly 4,000 soldiers from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, have replaced their late night snack runs with an extra visit to the gym.
“On a typical Wednesday night I would probably just be sitting around in my room watching TV and eating pizza,” Pfc. Bernard Knolle, a fire support specialist with the Brigade Troops Battalion, 1/25 SBCT laughed. “I try to spend any free time in the gym getting sexier for the ladies.”
This trend is becoming popular as local gyms, located on the individual forward operating bases, struggle to house the soldiers flocking to the bodybuilding hubs.
“It’s a lot easier, when your deployed, to get motivated whether you want to get buff to impress your friends and family when you go home or just trying to pass the time away,” Knolle said. “It seems like all my friends are motivated to make some kind of physical improvement and have dedicated a lot more time than they would have back home.”
Although many soldiers share the desire to have rock hard abs and bulging arms reports state that by increasing physical fitness and an improving an individual’s diet, can help in more ways than just improving physical appearance.
According to the Center for Disease Control, physical activity can help reduce the risk of getting some cancers, Type 2 Diabetes, and can even have an effect on a soldier's mental health.
The mental health of a soldier can play a huge factor in their performance on the battlefield.
“Working out helps me forget about everything that is going on around me and gives me a break from reality,” Knolle said. “I feel more refreshed and ready to go to work the next day.”
Exercise can play such a large factor in a soldiers well being that the combat stress experts located at FOB Lagman have integrated visits to the gym into their recovery process.
Maj. Sherri Passarell, a psychiatrist with the 883rd Combat Stress Control unit, said that although each soldier handles the challenges of deployments different, getting time at the gym can increase many soldiers' motivation and self esteem.
Combined exercise with the right diet and amount of sleep and many soldiers could find themselves to be less stressed during missions.
Research done by the CDC, shows regular physical activity can help keep a person’s thinking and judgment skills sharp and can dramatically change ones chances of becoming depressed.
Because soldiers often times isolate themselves during depression, Passarell said that hitting the gym with battle-buddies could also help soldiers deal with stress management.
Whether it’s to get rid of the love handles or to just let off some stress, the 1/25 SBCT soldiers have bought in and are making sure that they return back to Alaska a little more "Army Strong."
Information pertaining to the benefit of physical activity in this article was gathered from the website: www.cdc.gov
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This work, Deployed soldiers dedicate free time to improve fitness, by SSG Thomas Duval, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.