ZAMA, KANAGAWA, JAPAN
Story by Patrick Ciccarone
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan District
Have you found yourself feeling listless recently? Too many hours glued to your work computer, crunching numbers, or browsing the same websites day-in and day-out? Have your 5-day-a-week trips to the Post Exchange food court thrown your diet and shape out of tune? How about your mental health – has all the above got you feeling a bit blue? Fear not – there exists a one-stop facility on Camp Zama that can help you get back on the track to a better lifestyle!
Enter the Camp Zama Army Wellness Center (AWC), located across from the Camp Zama’s Post Office, and behind the bowling alley (building 379) where a group of highly qualified professionals are waiting to assist anyone, ranging from Servicemembers and their families, to Department of Defense civilians, looking for help in finding overall balance in their life.
“The AWC offers preventative services and programs through health education and assessments,” explained Shannon Vo, the Lead Health Educator and Director for the AWC. “[Our technicians], all of whom have at a minimum a bachelor’s degree in fields such as health education, nursing, exercise science, among others, promote overall health support by working in tandem with healthcare providers to improve and sustain health, performance, and readiness.”
Much like other AWCs found on other posts, Camp Zama’s AWC has six core programs they offer to clients, including a health assessment review, a physical fitness program, a healthy nutrition course, stress management class, general wellness services, and tobacco cessation education.
“Our services contribute to healthy lifestyles in many ways,” said Vo. “Our educational classes, which center around sleep, activity, and nutrition, provide a foundational knowledge for clients at any stage of change.”
These six programs provide a comprehensive overall approach to health and wellness, that often follow clients in their journey to leading a better lifestyle. This methodology is markedly different than most healthcare providers, where the path is often short and linear by comparison.
“Once they have the tools to get started, health coaching with an [health] educator helps the client stay the course and continue on the path to wellness and to achieve their health goals through education and behavioral change,” offered Vo. “Our assessments provide clients with the numbers or data to show them how they are progressing, but it also helps them to make changes when needed if they aren’t reaching their goals.”
Vo continued, explaining that by engaging with the AWC staff and utilizing their services regularly, clients have several opportunities over time with trained health educators to keep them working towards the healthier lifestyle they envision.
One of the more popular and immediately beneficial of the AWC’s programs, the healthy nutrition course, educates clients with the basics of meeting their proper nutritional needs, while providing them invaluable strategies, such as meal planning, to ensure they are ‘fit to Engineer,’ as it were.
“We’ve all heard the old adage that food is medicine, and I believe there is a lot of truth in that statement. Proper nutrition provides us with the nutrients we need to sustain optimal health from the inside out,” said Vo. “Healthy nutrition isn’t always intuitive because there is so much information out there that promotes one way of eating over another or fad dieting. Learning the basic tenets of good nutrition will help clients navigate all that information and misinformation to determine what is right for them.”
Vo explained further that by creating a set meal plan or diet, AWC’s knowledgeable team can help individuals understand proper portions for each food group, which further helps maintain a healthy weight more successfully than exercising alone.
While proper nutrition is only half of the physical component of wellness, proper exercise puts all those newfound dietary changes to work in sculpting or maintaining a healthier body.
But whether you are new to exercise or already have a herculean physique, the AWC has you covered – exercise plans can be created on an individual basis, making your trips to the gym highly unique and tailored to your needs, ensuring workouts never become stale and making sure boundaries are being safely and efficiently pushed.
“Having a plan when it comes to exercise is very important to reach fitness goals. An exercise plan can maximize the amount of time spent in the gym because you don’t waste time deciding what to do, especially if you’re short on time,” explained Vo. “Exercise plans are important because as clients become adapted to their exercises, they may need to adjust the variables in order to keep progressing and avoid plateaus.”
Further complimenting an individual’s overall wellness, the AWC offers clients assistance with the mental and side, too – their stress management and general wellness courses help individuals understand stress and the various impacts it has on one’s health.
“Those who are living or working abroad often face new challenges and stressors as they learn to navigate their new environment,” said Vo. “Learning how to cope with stress and to minimize the effects of stress on the body can improve resiliency and lead to better health.”
To that end, Vo’s team at the AWC turn to state-of-the-art technology to attack stressors with various methodology.
“Our stress management program is comprised of a class called Individual Stress Management Education to help clients understand stress, and various strategies to mitigate the effects of stress along with four sessions of biofeedback,” Vo said. “Once clients take the class, they can schedule an appointment for biofeedback training using software to measure heart rate variability while learning stress management techniques, such as deep breathing, guided imagery, mindful meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation.”
So, now that you have met your physical and mental wellness needs, you can return to work and life with a renewed vigor, right? Well, maybe, but the journey to wellness does not end there – the AWC consistently offers fitness-related events throughout the year, ranging from seasonally-themed 3K fun-runs, to The Biggest Loser-inspired weight loss activities, so one is never in need of finding a way to stay active, and engage in fun, community-based events.
“Over time, we will all move up and down the [health and wellness] continuum, but our hope is that clients who do receive care and treatment for any health concerns will recover fully, “said Vo. “[Our mission] is to increase their quality of life.”
The Camp Zama AWC is open from Monday – Friday, 7:00 am – 4:00 pm, and closed between 11:30 – 12:30, in addition to Thursday afternoons. It is recommended that clients make an appointment prior to walking in.
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