Military Veterans’ Attitude on the Value of Exercise as a Means of Coping with Stress


McVaugh, C.S.1, Stevens, W.C.1, Roar, J.D.1, Bolt, M.C.1 and Williams, J.G.1,2 1 West Chester University, West Chester, PA, 2Kinestech Consulting.

Throughout history the United States military has been involved in numerous wars. Returning veterans are confronted with obstacles that are overwhelming and must ultimately be resolved through individual action. Purpose: To survey a population of veterans located on a university campus about their military-related exercise experience, attitude towards exercise and whether physical activity was employed as a therapeutic catalyst in coping with stress. Method: Participants were contacted through the campus Veteran’s Center by email with a request to activate a link to an electronic questionnaire. Questions were grouped into four categories: military background, military-related physical training, mood/ “state-of-mind”, and extra-curricular physical activity. The study was approved by the institution’s IRB. Results: Thirty seven veterans responded. Over three-quarters (78.4%, n=29) indicated that a healthy lifestyle was a priority before entering the service. Thirty were deployed and twenty-two served in a combat role. Using a scale of 1 (extremely easy) to 10 (extremely rigorous) respondents judged the rigor of their military physical training (PT). The mean response was 7.5 with 28 indicating it was “adequately rigorous”. During their deployment 25 did PT on their own with 60.7% performing a combination of strength and cardiovascular training while 35.7% did strength training alone. When asked whether anger was an issue prior to, during or after deployment, respondents indicated “yes” 13.9% (n=5), 47.2% (n=17) and 50.0% (n=18) respectively. When confronting negative situations or emotions 88.9% (n=32) indicated that exercise helps. Over two-thirds (70.3%, n=26) stated that physical activity helps them sleep better and 61.1% (n=22) revealed more restful sleep on days when they exercised. Thirty one (86.1%) respondents stated participation in outdoor activities. Conclusions: Physical activity, including physical training was engaged in by the majority of veterans surveyed along with indications that it assists in coping with issues of anger as well as the transition back to civilian life. Trend in these results suggests that variants of exercise activity should be advised in the process, often problematic transfer, from military to civilian life.

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