As the U.S. Armed Forces work to combat increasing obesity rates, one Air Force base is using networked fitness to help motivate airmen to exercise.
At Grand Forks (ND) Air Force Base, the recently renovated 118,000-square-foot Sports and Fitness Center includes Precor's 880 line of cardio equipment, which is connected to the Woodinville, WA-based company's Preva networked fitness system. According to Precor, Grand Forks is the first U.S. military installation to have networked fitness, which allows users to create accounts, track and share their workouts, and access their data through other pieces of networked equipment as well as through Preva's iPhone app.
Although it is gaining popularity in health clubs, military bases have been hesitant to consider networked fitness because of concerns that the equipment's Internet network would not meet military security standards, says Ray East, government sales manager for Precor.
Once security issues are resolved, East says networked fitness systems can have many benefits for military bases, especially those with more tech-savvy service members.
"In the military, they have problems with obesity just like every other segment of society," East says. "It's a younger generation. They have a harder time than they used to in getting them to participate in intramural sports and getting them to come to the fitness facilities."
Carol Muir, fitness director of the Grand Forks Air Base, says that by providing an interactive system, the Sports and Fitness Center is better able to engage members and help them meet their fitness goals.
For many airmen, passing the required Air Force physical training (PT) test is one of those goals, particularly since the number of active-duty airmen who have been discharged from the Air Force for not meeting PT standards has increased dramatically over the last several years.
Treadmills at the facility allow users to train through a program that simulates the PT test. Airmen who are struggling to meet the fitness requirement and have to complete a training program can log in on cardio equipment, track their progress and provide documentation of their workouts to leadership, Muir says.
The center also has incorporated Preva into recreational fitness programs, including SOAR into Shape, a weight loss and health competition co-hosted by the base's Health and Wellness Center. Each participant sets a fitness goal and earns points by working toward it, Muir says. Other programs offer points-based incentives, which allow participants to earn prizes such as T-shirts and water bottles for reaching fitness milestones
Muir says being able to track their progress and receive prizes for accomplishments, whether they are water bottles or virtual badges that appear on the screen, helps keep members motivated.
"Not everybody likes to work out, and the military is no different," Muir says. "The more variety we can have for our customers, the better off we are."