"Be all you can be," the Army recruitment advertisements say. I wish this book about the U.S. Army Total Fitness Program were all it could be, too. But it isn't; it's a book for novices.
About 10 years ago, the Army decided its troops could be in better shape, so it launched a program to fight fat and unhealthy habits. The results were outstanding. Almost 1 million men and women, from 18-year-old privates to 60-year-old generals, lost tons of fat and lowered their blood pressure.
"Everybody was talking about what the Army was doing about health and fitness," said Dianne Hales, who in the course of her marriage to an Army lieutenant colonel has moved from Texas to Virginia to California to Maryland, where she and Robert Hales presently live. "Dining halls that used to spoon out globs of fried foods were converted into salad bars . . . Entire battalions were entering 10-kilometer races. I wrote an article for Family Circle in August of 1983 about what the Army was doing, and realized that I had planted the seed for a book."
The authors did a comprehensive job of compiling data on the many aspects of fitness and nutrition with a modified version of the Army program, but most of the information in this book has been printed elsewhere. Charts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Family Fitness Handbook have been around for years. The book offers few new discoveries or breakthroughs in a field that is constantly producing new and conflicting reports.
The authors do, however, offer accurate and sound advice and precise illustrations and descriptions of exercise and nutrition. They are certainly qualified: Dianne Hales, a medical writer, has written four health books, and Robert Hales helped develop the Army's "Fit to Win" exercise, diet and preventive health care program while chief physician at Fort Hood, Tex.
The book begins with a 15-minute test for first-time athletes and an Army Physical Readiness Test for the more advanced athletes. It then presents an eight-week basic training guide with illustrations and descriptions concentrating on flexibility, stamina and strength. Next, the book discusses stretching and flexibility, cardiorespiratory fitness (running, bicycling, walking), muscular fitness, the physical differences between men and women during exercise, and prevention and early care of injuries.
The rest of the book, 80 of the 220 pages, deals with nutrition. "Today the sergeant no longer thinks just of quantity of food ," the book says, "but of quality too: 'Our job used to be feeding soldiers; now it's feeding them right.' "
The extensive chapters on nutrition include sample menus, charts showing how much exercise it takes to burn off certain foods, the amount of calories and cholesterol each food contains, and 22 pages of recipes to make you all that you can be.