With a nearly 2.5 million Americans now veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need for programs and networks to help soldiers transition from military to civilian life is greater than ever.
According to a recent survey of veterans commissioned by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 55 percent of respondents said they sometimes or often feel disconnected from civilian life after the end of active service.
While there are several ways for veterans to go about transitioning from military to civilian life – from social support groups to veteran empowerment organizations – one of the best options is focusing on fitness programs. Speaking with Homeland Magazine, long-time military fitness trainer, Tee Major, explained that newly minted veterans struggle with no longer being told what to do on a daily basis.
However, the structure provided by a regimented gym schedule can help ease the shift, in addition to providing the healthy and active lifestyle these former soldiers have been accustomed to living.
Veteran gyms and health programs on the rise
In an effort to help bridge this re-integration, gyms and facilities across the country are providing special programs to help veterans transition from military to civilian life.
The Outpost Training Facility is one such special gym. Located in Greenville, South Carolina, the facility has partnered with non-profits to provide better workout opportunities geared specifically to veterans, WSPA.com reported.
Launched by two veterans, Josh Formaneck and Matt Cassabon, the gym's aim is to not only encourage better health and fitness among veterans, but to also give these returning warriors a place to find camaraderie with their brothers and sisters in arms.
"This is a place where we can share those stories from our past with people that understand, that can relate and want to hear what we've been through," explained Formaneck.
While the Outpost Training Facility operates as a physical establishment, other programs exist online for veterans to use no matter where they're located.
In addition to his work as a military trainer, Tee Major created online specialty fitness programs to promote health and fitness among veterans. With guiding principles that incorporate the creeds and core values of the different military branches, fitness programs like these mirror the patterns and practices that are commonplace in the armed services.
Sometimes veterans must transition to civilian life following a major injury. Many gyms have launched programs aimed specifically at helping veterans who have suffered serious injuries. For instance, a Crossfit gym is Oregon is providing free membership for post-9/11 veterans who have a 30 percent disability or more, reported KTVL.
Finding careers in fitness
With such strong demand for gyms and fitness programs aimed at veterans, many former service members are getting into the game to help their brothers and sisters at arms. The discipline learned and stamina built up while in the military lends itself well to the rigors of being a personal trainer.
In an effort to assist veterans, the American Council on Exercise launched its Salute You Scholarship program, which helps honorably discharged military men and women in obtaining certification to become ACE Personal Trainers. With study materials, an exam registration voucher and one-on-one study assistance all provided free of charge, the American Council on Exericise's "Salute You" program has already helped more than 1,000 veterans achieve accreditation to begin their new careers in health and fitness.