Throughout all the years of our military service, many of us spent a good amount of time getting into and staying in top physical condition, which enabled us to better perform our jobs. From all those long miles we ran in formation to all the push-ups we counted during our assessment tests — our bodies were highly activated.
Then, something incredible happened. We received our DD-214s and got the hell out of dodge. Now, the fact that the CDC recommends that adults undertake moderately intense aerobic activity at least twice a week takes a backseat to the fact that we don't have to do it anymore.
Unfortunately, due to a sudden change of priorities, many of our workout routines quickly dwindle away — and the change is felt immediately. After just seven days of inactivity, our bodies start to feel less fit, our muscles don't feel as large, and it's estimated we've lost approximately 5 percent of our VO2 max.
Capt. Dustin Benker runs on a treadmill at the U.S. Air Force Academy's Human Performance Laboratory to check his oxygen and carbon dioxide levels while he works out. (U.S. Air Force photo by J. Rachel Spencer)
VO2 max measures the maximum amount of oxygen you utilize during an intense workout. This measurement is considered one of the best indicators of an athlete's cardiovascular strength and endurance. A decrease here means less oxygen is available for generating energy.
Within the next few weeks, your VO2 max will have dropped more than 10 percent and you'll begin to notice a loss in physical strength. Your myocytes (muscle cells) will start to shrink and your count of lipocytes (fat cells) will increase.
That's not a good thing.
A closer look at your muscle (left) and fat cells.
After two-months of no aerobic activity, your VO2 max has dwindled a full 15 percent and, of course, you're still losing myocytes and gaining lipocytes — which causes you to bloat.
Maintaining this low level of activity puts you at a greater risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and various cardiovascular diseases. It's also a contributing factor to why veterans end up suffering from certain types of depression.
So, to all of our brothers and sisters in the veteran community: Try and stay active — not only will it keep you looking good, it'll help you transition back into civilian life.