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Alyson J. Littman, Christopher W. Forsberg and Edward J. Boyko

Background:

Military veterans provide a large and diverse population to examine the extent to which compulsory physical activity (PA) in early adulthood is associated with PA later in life.

Methods:

We assessed self-reported and objectively measured PA and sedentary time in the 900 veterans and 2036 nonveterans with valid data from the 2003–2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Analyses were adjusted for the complex survey design and age, race/ethnicity, education, marital status, and poverty.

Results:

Based on self-report, the proportion of veterans and nonveterans meeting PA Guidelines did not differ significantly (51.1% vs. 43.9%, P = .26). However, a greater proportion of veterans reported regular vigorous leisure-time activity (30.4% vs. 19.6%, P = .04) and muscle-strengthening activities (24.4 vs. 16.7, P = .051). Based on objective PA monitoring, activity levels between veterans and nonveterans also did not differ significantly, although mean counts and minutes per day were numerically greater in nonveterans. By self-report (P = .02) and PA monitors (P = .065), estimated sedentary time was greater in veterans than in demographically similar nonveterans.

Conclusions:

Veterans were no more likely than nonveterans to meet PA Guidelines, but may have been more likely to perform vigorous activities and conversely, to spend more time in sedentary activities.

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Alyson J. Littman, Isabel G. Jacobson, Edward J. Boyko and Tyler C. Smith

Background:

Understanding physical activity (PA) after discharge from the military can inform theory on the role of habit and reinforcement in behavior maintenance and has implications for this population’s future health.

Methods:

Using data from 28,866 Millennium Cohort Study participants (n = 3782 of whom were discharged during the years between assessments), we 1) investigated changes in meeting federal PA guidelines for moderate-to-vigorous activity (MVPA) following military discharge and 2) determined predictors of meeting these guidelines after discharge.

Results:

MVPA declined more in those who were discharged than in those who were not (−17.8 percentage points vs. −2.7 percentage points), with greater declines in former active-duty personnel, those who had deployed with combat exposures, had 14 to 25 years of service, and had been discharged more recently (>2 years prior). In those who were discharged, being normal or overweight (vs. obese), and a nonsmoker or former smoker (vs. current smoker) were positively associated with meeting MVPA Guidelines at follow-up, while meeting MVPA Guidelines at baseline and depression were inversely associated.

Conclusions:

Reductions in MVPA were substantial and unexpected. Increased understanding of transitional periods that may benefit from interventions to mitigate declines in PA will help prevent excess weight gain and physical inactivity-associated health consequences.