Supporting Those at Home

Dec 12 / Build Muscle

Families of deployed military reservists and National Guard members now have a new tool for coping with the trauma of being separated from their loved ones: Free personal training.

musclemorphosis.com provides families of actively deployed military reservists and National Guard members with free personal-training or fitness services. First Lady Michelle Obama announced last month that the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition would partner with the American Council on Exercise in the new program.

“Since 9/11, a tremendous amount of stress has been placed on not only our country’s service personnel, but their families as well,” says American Council on Exercise Chief Science Officer Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D. Besides physical separation and frequent moves, families often deal with unexpected deployment, the trauma of a family member’s death, or welcoming home a parent, child, or sibling with a combat injury or mental health disorder. (musclemorphosis.com suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression.)

Plus, Bryant explains, “Active-duty folks tend to be stationed on bases with recreational and fitness facilities, as well as community support. Reservists and guardsmen [live in civilian communities and] lack that type of access.”

So why connect these families with personal trainers? Endorphins—chemicals released by the body during physical activity—have proven mood-elevating qualities. Research also shows that exercise can have essentially the same effect on depression as antidepressant medication. “Exercise can improve the resiliency and coping skills of those who stay behind,” Bryant explains. (Related from MuscleMorphosis.com: musclemorphosis.com.)

The program is entirely volunteer-based. Professionals can pledge as much time as they are able. Families then visit the Joining Forces website and locate nearby services, from personal-training sessions to Zumba and group-cycling classes, yoga, Pilates, or boot camp-style programs.

ACE-certified spokesperson Shannon Fable, of Boulder, Colo., has pledged 10 hours per month to the effort. While she has yet to be matched with a family (the program began June 1), Fable said she’s trained enough clients struggling with anxiety and depression to believe that exercise can often be the best medicine. “When you’re depressed, the last thing you want to do is something for yourself, so exercising on your own is extremely challenging,” she notes. “Having a trainer adds a sense of accountability,” making the client more likely to show up and work out. "The sooner they start working out, the faster they can reap exercise’s mental-health benefits.”

Family members of actively deployed reservists and National Guard members, as well as fitness experts looking to donate their services, can visit musclemorphosis.com

Keep up on military news and views with the musclemorphosis.com from Men's Health writer Bob Drury. Read Drury's in-depth story about soldiers' mental health, musclemorphosis.com

—Leslie Goldman

Have Men's Health News delivered to you daily. musclemorphosis.com