Behavior Change, Health Outcomes | By | 11/10/23 | 5 Minute Read

How a Community Approach Helps Veterans Stay Healthy

As we approach Veterans Day, it’s a time to share our immense gratitude to veterans and their families for their service to our country. These same men and women are integral parts of our communities, putting their unique skill sets to work in civilian life to continue helping others – across business, healthcare, education, public service, and all aspects of society.  

A commitment to whole health

Active duty service is often synonymous with physical fitness as a part of daily life. Service members are required to perform regular training to prepare for physically demanding environments and challenges throughout their careers. That’s been shown to positively impact health later in life – especially when those routines and habits carry over from active duty service into post-military life. 

For some, making that transition comes naturally. However, for many veterans, it can be difficult to maintain healthy behaviors and the same level of physical fitness in civilian life. This unique circumstance results in some veterans being at higher risk for developing debilitating health conditions. When looking at the veteran population as a whole compared to the average US population, “the collective health of those who served in the U.S. military exhibits a number of health conditions that paint a concerning picture of morbidity among the U.S. Veteran population.”

Fostering healthy behavior change

Thankfully, it’s never too late to adopt healthy behavior change. At Fitbit, we use a science-based approach to behavior change to encourage and empower users. The effects of adhering to routines that include regular physical activity and minimized sedentary time can’t be overstated. Establishing these habits has a direct correlation with reducing healthcare costs over one’s lifetime, and reduces the risk of developing many chronic conditions

While behavior change can be challenging, it’s far from impossible. The important thing is to take it one day and one small change at a time – these small daily habits add up over time to become the building blocks of a healthier life. For many veterans, the best approach is to holistically focus on physical, mental, and social health, which can all be facilitated through a community approach.

Social and Community Impacts to Whole Health

Whether it’s a pilates class or meeting friends for a jog, participating in group and community activities produces many positive, well-documented effects. 

  • Healthy Competition – In active duty life, competition is often used as an effective tool to build team working skills, and to support readiness within a unit aiming to achieve a common goal. Having a partner or group has been shown to influence motivation and improve performance during sessions of physical activity.
  • Mechanism for Support and Encouragement – Electing to engage in physical activity with others may also provide mechanisms of support in adhering to a physical wellness plan that features new behaviors. In many instances, one member of the group can rely on others to offer encouragement that can motivate, to participate and complete physical activities. Digital tools such as wearable devices, and applications now make it simple to share goals, progress, and activity logging with other group members, allowing for positive feedback mechanisms.
  • Accountability – Participating in group activities naturally includes an additional layer of accountability. People are more likely to attend a planned activity when a group is involved, and to reach health goals.
  • Improved Activity Performance – Research has shown that a phenomenon occurs when individuals work within a group to complete an activity, when compared to completing the same activity alone. Known as the Kohler effect, an individual’s effort in undertaking physical activity increases when the activity is performed as a group when compared to completing that activity working alone.

Tools That Foster a Community Approach Can Lead to Better Health Outcomes

Today, physical proximity to others is no longer the barrier that it once was in taking a communal approach to wellness and to foster healthy behavior change. Sharing wellness goals, progress, and experiences with others can be enabled right from applications at our fingertips. While there may be additional value from being able to participate with a group that is physically present, wearable devices and applications provide an avenue to community participation when there are challenges that cannot be overcome, such as when friends and/or family do not live within close proximity.

For veterans, this community aspect is especially important. With team and group activity oftentimes being an integral part of military life, taking a similar approach to one’s own personal health can help knock down some of the common barriers that prevent behavior change and adherence to wellness routines. As a result, this puts the population on a path of lower healthcare costs and better health outcomes in post-military life. 

At Fitbit, we’re celebrating veterans this month and focused on providing them with the tools to stay healthy and connected with their community all year long. Happy Veterans Day!

Fierce Health Payer Summit

11/2-11/3 | AUSTIN, TX

EMIDS Healthcare Summit

11/1-11/2 | NASHVILLE, TN