Be Fit, Be Well—Exercise physiologist here to assist

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Eric Amidon
  • 27 Aerial Port Squadron
Given the Air Force's recent changes in policies surrounding the Fit-to-Fight program, and the confusion surrounding those changes, it's refreshing to have an outlet of support to help members meet the new fitness requirements. 934th Airlift Wing members now have an important support resource, to help them formulate appropriate fitness goals, in newly appointed exercise physiologist, Eric Neal.

Neal comes from Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, where he served as an exercise physiologist for 23 months. Prior to assisting Airmen in their fitness regimen at Kirtland AFB, he served 6 years in the Air Force as a services specialist. At the end of his term he enlisted in the Air National Guard where he served another 7 years before finishing a master's degree in health and wellness.

Neal is one of only a few physiologists who retained their positions after cuts enforced by the Department of Defense eliminated nearly 85 positions from the Air Force Fitness Program. His first UTA with the 934th was this month and he explained how excited he is to be here. " After hearing so many service members convey their struggles meeting the new fitness requirements, I hope I can assist unit members in designing more well-rounded fitness goals for themselves," he said.

One of the programs he hopes to institute is a kind of 'Be Well 2.0'. "I want to offer individual cardio and strength assessments, which will be held on the Friday prior to UTA's," he said. I would like to get members experiencing difficulties back on track to meet their fitness goals." Fitness assessments are a series of measurements that help determine a member's current level of physical fitness and should not be considered a replacement for a physical conducted by a licensed physician. The results can be used to design or modify a person's exercise program around their current fitness level.

Another key facet of the new programs being offered is the Functional Movement Screening. The FMS is a product of the exercise philosophy known as Functional Movement Systems and is based on sound science, years of innovation and current research. At its core it is a ranking and grading system that documents movement patterns that are key to normal function of the targeted body part. Using this system, Neal will be able to observe problematic movement patterns and recommend viable solutions to correct or improve the member's execution of any given exercise. He explained that many individuals tire quickly due to poor execution of the movements required to complete a push-up or sit-up. By slowing down and analyzing the movement one can improve the key movements necessary to complete each repetition in a more comfortable manner.

Gait Analysis is another solution Neal uses to unravel the biomechanical problems some runners with difficulty achieving a good time on the run may be facing. Useful measurements can be ascertained by studying an individual's unique personal movement map. "This 'map' reveals programming of everything happening within your body - from kinesthetic awareness and habit, to individual levels of mobility, stability, flexibility and functional strength." He went on to explain with great enthusiasm, that the analysis of all these different elements is what creates a complete picture of a person's gait and is considered a true movement analysis.

When a member enlists the help of an exercise physiologist like Neal, they can expect to receive all of their findings and recommendations for improvement in a downloadable PDF document of their full assessment. Members in the Be Well program will be able to track their improvements using more accurate measurements using the AF Form 1975, Personal Fitness Progress Chart.

Watching Neal as he enthusiastically and passionately explains a multitude of other tools he hopes to offer Reservists of the 934th Airlift Wing, it's hard not to get caught up in his infectious fitness devotion. With a more robust Self Fitness Improvement Program comes a plethora of recommendations around diet and apps to help you succeed in your fitness goals. One such app, recommended by the Air Force, is MyFitnessPal, which can be used on both Apple and Android devices currently on the market. Neal has expert knowledge on how to incorporate all of these tools into what he calls a Better Body/Better Life Fitness Program.

Neal plans to offer Better Body, Better Life fitness classes on the third Tueday of each month and Cardiovascular and Strength Intervention classes on the third Thursday of each month. These classes will help Reservists get where they need to be physically to succeed in their Air Force careers.

With Eric Neal now at the 934th, there are even more resources for Reservists to maintain a high level of fitness. Contact Mr. Neal at the Fitness Center for more information.