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2011 HSR&D National Meeting Abstract

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2011 National Meeting

3056 — Vigorous Physical Activity and Separation from the Military in OIF/OEF Service Members and Veterans

Littman AJ (Seattle Epidemiologic Research and Information Center and the Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington), Jacobson IG (Naval Health Research Center, San Diego, CA), Boyko EJ (Seattle Epidemiologic Research and Information Center), Smith TC (Naval Health Research Center)

The benefits of physical activity (PA) on physical and psychological health are well known. Military personnel represent a large population compelled by the circumstances of their service to maintain high levels of PA and fitness. The aims of this study were to examine the association between separation from the military and vigorous PA, overall and in subgroups defined by various demographic, service-, and health-related characteristics.

Data on military status, physical activity, and covariates were available for 30,324 Millennium Cohort Study participants who were in the military in 2004 and completed questionnaires in 2004 and 2007. Of these individuals, 4,005 separated from the military during follow-up (between 2004 and 2007). We estimated the proportion meeting guidelines for vigorous PA ( > = 75 minutes per week) at each time point and calculated change between 2004 and 2007 by military status. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to examine factors associated with meeting vigorous PA guidelines in 2007.

In 2004 (baseline), approximately half of those in the military and those who subsequently separated met guidelines for vigorous PA (51.8% and 50.4%, respectively). At follow-up, 34.8% of those who separated met guidelines for vigorous PA compared with 49.2% active service members. Among separated individuals, the following characteristics were associated with a greater likelihood of meeting guidelines for vigorous PA in 2007: meeting guidelines in 2004; male gender; being normal weight or overweight vs. obese; and non- or former smoking compared to current smoking; while having a prior PTSD diagnosis and having served on active duty (vs. Reserve/National Guard) were associated with not meeting guidelines.

This study observed a 31% reduction in vigorous PA among those who recently separated from the military. Interventions should be developed to encourage PA maintenance during this transition in order to prevent adverse health consequences associated with inactivity.

Findings from this study suggest a large decrease in vigorous PA in newly-separated Veterans. Health benefits associated with PA could be accrued if physical activities were maintained or increased during and after the transition from military to civilian life.

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