The Army is well known for its physical fitness standards, and the month of June draws awareness to men’s health but for Lt. Col. Devon “Dru” Roberts, a Program Analyst and Action Officer with Army Warrior Care Transition, being physically fit is personal endeavor.
“My father was a type 2 diabetic. He smoked for 30 years and drank Pepsi every day. Although he was a Vietnam Veteran and career Soldier, the retired Master Sergeant hated drinking water and exercising, particularly after retiring. He also suffered from kidney cancer and failure,” Roberts explained. “My mother drank Dr. Pepper every day and ate heavy foods (fried and southern inspired.) She suffered from high blood pressure and was a chronic smoker for 40 years and survived a brain aneurysm in 2001. She also suffered from dementia (arterial derived), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, lung and kidney cancer,” he continued.
Growing up around physically active siblings and a near 20-year career in the Army prompted Roberts to put his health front and center.
“I ‘m an avid soccer player. I played for the city, high school, intramural league and the military while deployed. In college, I participated in the Reserve Officer Training Program, so running and weights were statutory. I worked out five to six days a week 45-60 minutes each day,” said Roberts. “Although I no longer lift weights, I started calisthenics six months ago and I still work out five to six days a week, 60 minutes each day and attempt to walk at least 10,000 plus steps a day. Physical fitness was a critical component in my success in the ROTC program and is now a part of my every-day life.” he said.
“Being active and physically fit is essential for good health. We know from reliable research that there is an inverse relationship between physical activity/fitness and health. In other words the more physically active a person is, the lower the risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, and obesity,” said Col. Travis Richardson, a board certified Internist at Fort Belvoir, Va. and Chief, Clinical Liaison Division, Warrior Care and Transition. “This is especially vital within the Army as Soldiers must be fit in order to maintain readiness and to perform all of the required tasks to fight and win the Nations wars. Programs within the Army such as Move to Health and the Performance Triad assists Soldiers in this effort.” he said.
The military’s Performance Triad consists of sleep, activity and nutrition. A system Roberts says he found as a key to keeping fit.
“Earlier in life, I ate relatively well but didn’t really adjust my diet until college and beyond. I reduced my bread and sugar intake and stopped eating pork. I gave up milk and beef after researching its impact on African American men,” Roberts said. “Currently my diet consists of fish and poultry and lots of vegetables. I also consume organic vegetable-based protein drinks to ensure I receive the proper amount of protein my body requires to maintain and build muscle along with taking a daily multivitamin. The body knows what it becomes accustomed to. I become tired and lethargic whenever I ate foods that were fried, excess in sugar and fatty. My body lets me know within 24 hours just how wrong I was in my eating decisions.”
According to medical officials with the Defense Health Agency, adopting attitudes such as Roberts’ that foster healthy lifestyle choices are beneficial. While men and women have many of the same health concerns, men may be affected differently than women. In addition, there are some conditions which are unique to men. Familiarity with men’s health issues, regular screenings and prevention are essential to maintaining good physical wellness.
“Those components are extremely important. Army Medicine has been changing the conversation to move from health care and managing chronic diseases to a system for health that is designed to prevent disease and injury, restore health, and improve health through education and self-empowerment, “Richardson said. “This is especially important for men as the life expectancy for men is about six to seven years less than women. There are several reasons for this difference but one of the reasons is cardiovascular disease, which can be impacted positively by healthy behaviors and activities.”
“I believe my family’s history was a blueprint for my healthy life style. Whether you’re in the military or not, you’re only given one life and one body — so it’s essential you take care of it,” said Roberts.