Camp Zama Army Wellness Center classes inform and inspire

Photo By Winifred Brown | Crescenda Iriarte, a health promotion technician at the Camp Zama Wellness Center, talks about proper portion sizes during the “Upping Your Metabolism” class at the Camp Zama Education Center Aug. 22, 2019



Story by Winifred Brown 

US Army Garrison – Japan 

CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Aug. 23, 2019) – Sgt. Raquel Villalona wants to improve her performance as a Soldier, so she took the Camp Zama Army Wellness Center’s “Upping Your Metabolism” class here Aug. 22.

“It was shocking to find out how many calories are in things like popcorn at a movie theater and how those empty calories do nothing for your performance and energy,” said Villalona, assigned to the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

The free class, however, is just one of seven the center offers to help members of the community improve their health, said Lauren Williams, director of the Camp Zama AWC.

The classes focus on sleep, activity, nutrition and stress, and other classes include “Meals in Minutes;” “Fueling for Health: The Basics of Nutrition”; “Healthy Sleep Habits”; “Stress Management”; “Retire Strong: Life after the Military”; and “Staying Fit: Home and Away,” Williams said.

The center offers a handful of nutrition classes so people can learn the basics and know how to break down their calorie counts for appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, Williams said.

“We even tackle how to make healthy meals efficiently, because one of the barriers in this community is ‘How do I cook and not take my whole evening?’ or ‘How do I meal prep and have something to carry me through the week?’ so we have a class on that,” Williams said.

Another issue in the military community is how to keep up with fitness goals when traveling, Williams said. That’s where “Staying Fit: Home and Away” comes in and instructs on how to continue with physical activity when away from home.

In regard to sleep, “Healthy Sleep Habits” focuses on the basics, Williams said.

“[There are] things we can do to our home or our setting that we’re sleeping in to make it more beneficial to get good, quality sleep and increase their awareness of what sleep can do for performance,” said Williams, adding that lack of sleep is detrimental to performance.

The “Stress Management” class, meanwhile, talks about good and bad stressors and how to handle and cope with them, Williams said. Afterward, the class segues into individualized stress management and education.

Kayla Bradshaw, a military spouse who took the metabolism class, said the class provided useful information that will help her make better meal choices, prepare proper serving sizes and improve her sleep and activity levels.

“I was surprised to learn how much I underestimate calories and underestimate exercise,” Bradshaw said.

Likewise, Carolina Avila, a military spouse at Camp Zama who took the class, said she signed up because she wants to improve her overall health and found the class useful.

For example, sometimes it is difficult to determine which health apps and websites are reliable, so she appreciated the list she received in the class, Avila said.

The class, coupled with the center’s metabolic testing, will help her adjust her diet and activities accordingly, Avila said.

Williams said the classes the center regularly offers are standardized throughout Army Wellness Centers around the world, but the center can also create classes based on the specific needs of a unit.

In addition, although the center issues a class schedule each month, commanders can request a health educator to give a class at a time that is not on the schedule, Williams said.

Another positive aspect to the classes is that while most AWC services are restricted to Soldiers and their dependents who are 18 and older; Department of the Army civilian employees; and retirees, local nationals are welcome to take the classes as well, Williams said.

“If we’re already teaching a room full of Soldiers, and there’s a handful of people who come who don’t get credit for coming to us, we still will allow them to attend,” Williams said.

For those members of the community who are eligible, the center also offers free fitness tests that measure VO2 max, flexibility, back strength and grip strength, as well as body composition measurements with the Bod Pod, metabolic testing and a series of four individual stress management sessions.

Villalona said she plans to take advantage of the center’s metabolic testing, as well as body composition analysis through the Bod Pod, and she is thankful for the opportunity.

“I appreciate the Army providing us with tools to better ourselves,” Villalona said. “In the civilian sector, these types of services would be extremely expensive.”

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