Physical Health

Welcome to the Topic Guide on Physical Health.

This guide is a starting point for physical health issues affecting service members, veterans and their families.

Physical health is an important component of military service. Military members have to be fit and healthy to join and stay fit while in the service. During and after military service, physical wellness is an important part of overall wellness for the veteran and their family.

What are some of the top physical health concerns?
Beyond the “known” physical health issues a service member or veteran may experience (injuries and conditions sustained during service for which the service member receives treatment), there are a range of other physical issues they may experience during and after military service:

Stress – Everyone feels stress on a daily basis. A little stress in our lives (the yellow zone) is normal and expected. But, if you’re overly stressed (orange zone) for too long, it may impact you both mentally and physically.

Link: Watch a VA video on ways to manage stress

Sleep issues – One of the most common issues service members and veterans experience is trouble sleeping, which can impact overall health and wellness.

mTBI – Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (concussion) is known as the signature wound of war for Iraq & Afghanistan. It is not uncommon for service members and veterans to have undiagnosed mTBI, but it can often cause stress and challenges in the workplace, school and family life.

Chronic Pain – Both injuries and day-to-day wear and tear can result in chronic pain.

Use of Prescription Drugs – Prescription drug misuse is one of the fastest growing problems in our country. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 41 people die per day as a result of prescription pain reliever overdoses. If you have medications in your home, it’s important to store them in a location that only you know about and to properly dispose of any unused or expired medications in your home. Also keep track of your refills and be sure to work with your health care provider to ensure your dosage and use of medications is on track.

How to address physical health concerns:

  • Consider a health care provider who is familiar with physical conditions resulting from military service and who understands how these different conditions may interconnect.
  • Consider your preferred approach to addressing health issues. Some people are most comfortable with traditional medicine. Some people prefer not to take medication, unless necessary. Some prefer a holistic approach that involves complementary and alternative therapies (e.g. yoga, acupuncture, biofeedback).
  • Consider the role of physical fitness in addressing your health issues. It’s not uncommon for veterans to get out of the habit of exercising, especially once they are out of the service and coping with other aspects of life (work, school, relationships, family, etc.). Physical activity promotes health, keeps the weight off and reduces stress. Whether you like to run, lift weights or take a bike ride, there are opportunities to stay fit all around you.

Are you looking to get started with a physical fitness and/or weight management program?

The VA operates a weight management program called MOVE!, which is designed to help you lose weight, keep it off and improve your overall health. Those who are enrolled in VA Health Care can officially participate in MOVE! Others who are not enrolled can still access all of the resources and handouts on the MOVE! website, including a variety of topics such as nutrition and physical activity.

Link: VA MOVE! Handouts

MOVE!® helped veteran Derek achieve his weight loss goal:

Link: See more MOVE! before and after photos and success stories.

Arizona MOVE! contacts

Phoenix VA Health Care System – MOVE! is available at the main Medical Center  and some of the Community Based Outpatient Clinics. For those who live in rural areas or cannot make the MOVE! daytime sessions  there is Tele-MOVE. Tele-Move is a home based Weight Management program designed to reach out to Veterans who live far from the Phoenix VA (rural Veterans) or for those who are not able to attend (scheduling issues) the daytime MOVE group sessions that generally meet in person.  For more information, you can contact the Tele-Health Care Coordinator at 602-277-5551 x16689.

Southern AZ VA Health Care System – MOVE! is available at the main Medical Center, as well as each of the Community Based Outpatient Clinics.  MOVE!  is also available via telephone for veterans who meet certain criteria. Move!’s hours of operation are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the contact number is 520-629-4659.

Northern AZ VA Health Care System – MOVE! is available and the hours of operation at 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the contact number is 928-445-4860.

Why exercise?

Among other benefits like stress and weight management, a recent research report found that service member involvement in physical activity, especially vigorous activity, decreases the odds of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms (read the research brief). As always, check with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine.

Looking for a gym?

YMCA – Through a partnership between the Armed Services YMCA and the Department of Defense, YMCA’s around Arizona offer memberships and respite childcare to service members and families of deployed service members meeting certain criteria. Learn more about the program and how to find out if you’re eligible on the main YMCA Military Outreach page.

Individual YMCA’s may also offer discounts to veterans and families. The Valley of the Sun YMCAoffers a discounted membership. Check with your local YMCA.

The VA Medical Center in Phoenix offers a full gym for those enrolled at the VA. There is no cost to use the facility, however veterans need a consult from their physician clearing them to start an exercise program. The facility has treadmills, weights and other exercise equipment.

Other health clubs may offer discounts or waive introductory fees for veterans and service members. Ask if the gym near you offers a military and veteran discount.

Are you already active, but looking for ways to change up your workout?

If you’re a runner:
Change up your running routine. Go to Map My Run for alternative running options throughout Arizona.

If you’re a bicyclist:
There are some beautiful biking trails in Arizona whether you’re looking for a paved road or a challenging mountain bike adventure.Trail Links offers a map of bike trails by location. It also lists the length of the ride, a description of the ride and whether it’s asphalt, concrete, dirt or gravel.

If you’re a hiker:   
There are several websites that list hiking options throughout Arizona, such as ArizonaHiking.org. Also the U.S. Forest Service has a list of hikes and outdoor recreational activities.

For military style workouts:

Military.com has a fitness portal where you can find a number of military workouts. Some of the workouts on the site include: Hell Week Revisited, SpecOps Fitness Test, Lose the Love Handles, The Push up Push Workout.

What about workouts for disabled vets?

The VA has created an adaptive sports program for people of all age, skill level and ability. Thousands of disabled vets are participating in adaptive programs across the country. If you’re interested in a specific sport check with your VA clinical team. They can give you guidance on which sports may be a good fit for you and they can even help you order the right equipment. Check out the Sports Club Finder to locate a fitness club near you that has programs designed specifically for disabled veterans. Click on Melissa’s photo to read about why competing in paratriathlons makes her feel more alive than ever before.

“I feel more confident that I can do anything I put my mind to, with one leg or two.”

-Melissa Stockwell, Army

Veterans in the Phoenix area can access the Virginia G. Piper Sports and Fitness Center for Persons with Disabilities. Service members and veterans may qualify for complimentary membership. Contact the center for more information.