Lt. Col. Bryant Webber Teaches and Encourages Others to be Match to Serve

Bryant Webber was a young man with a plan growing up. Unlike most high school kids, he had a pretty solid idea of what he wanted to do with his adult life.

“I knew I wanted to be a physician in the military if it was possible,” he recalled. After initially wanting to apply for the Air Force Academy, he would go on to choose the ROTC route. Today, Lt. Col. Webber is the Preventive Medicine Chief for the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado.

“That’s actually ironic.”

Webber is a second-generation member of the Armed Forces. His father served in the California National Guard. His brother also briefly served in the United States Army. However, he is the first in his family to make a full career out of service. His position calls for him to be able to help a lot of people.

“Our job is to ensure that our 4,000-plus cadets are healthy and ready as 2nd Lieutenants to get after the Air Force mission.”

While Webber is responsible for helping prevent or take on potential outbreaks, his personal passion has been physical activity. That dates back to his childhood. He recalled always being interested in fitness and being active. He played baseball and basketball as well as other sports in his younger years. That connection stayed with him.

“My academic interest began during my residency in preventive medicine and public health around 13 years ago.”

Thankfully, he is able to maintain a connection to that passion today. As someone on active duty, he maintains a high level of fitness in a variety of ways.

“I used to do just running, but I like to mix in other aerobic activities like hiking and muscle strengthening exercises and stretching. I try to do a wide spectrum of exercises.”

Outside of training himself, he also remains involved with fitness professionally thanks to another endeavor he is a part of.

“I have a foot in the physical activity world thanks to serving on the Military Settings Sector of the National Physical Activity Plan.”

The National Physical Activity Plan is described on its website as “a comprehensive set of policies, programs, and initiatives designed to increase physical activity in all segments of the U.S. population.” In his pursuit of learning more about fitness and activity, he found that inactivity is a massive problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

“Physical inactivity was associated with so many common diseases,” he said. He also shared an opinion that many people may not have considered but should take seriously.

“Physical inactivity may be the smoking of our era. Like smoking, it’s a behavior that has many long-term consequences.”

Webber emphasized that this is not only a single-person issue. Being physically inactive can negatively impact others around them. Like many members of the military, he wants to be assured that future generations will have people healthy and able enough to protect freedom.

“Inactivity also places an extra burden on the healthcare system.”

Bryant Webber

Webber hasn’t only been increasing awareness of these issues. He’s been active in doing something to make a difference for quite some time. In 2021, he started a two-year fellowship program in the Physical Activity and Health Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Air Force supported that effort, and he was able to work on several studies. It was during that time he and others made several significant observations about young people.

“Only two in five young adults (17-24) are both weight eligible and adequately physically active enough to enlist in the military,” he shared. “Those data were actually shared at a Congressional hearing and used to update the CDC’s infographic titled Unfit to Serve.”

To some people reading this, that will not be a surprise because there have been several reports of the Army having trouble with recruitment. This is in part because of low physical preparedness. Webber expressed that this should be considered much more than a military issue. We all should be concerned and willing to do more to help.

“We have a societal obligation to increase physical activity opportunities during childhood and adolescence, including activities before, during, and after the school day.”

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Most people may see that number and feel they can’t commit one hour a day to being active with their kids. However, that time could be broken up into segments throughout the day. The education system can play a positive role as well.

“Parents and teachers can help do their part to reach that threshold,” Webber advised. “During the school year, it would obviously happen during the school day. Recess and PE are very important. There is evidence that physical activity is directly related to academic performance. Recess and PE can actually be for their academic benefit.”

Of course, nutrition is another major component of health and wellness because calories fuel that activity. Webber wouldn’t call himself an authority on that subject, but he agrees there are issues that need addressed such as food deserts where healthy food may not be as available. Of course, the other end of the issue should be discussed.

“We also see a problem with an abundance of unhealthy calories, so we need to be careful about overeating.”

He feels simple is better when it comes to eating for health. Webber advises his patients on eating a variety of healthy foods while minimizing processed foods and sugars. It doesn’t have to be bland and without flavor, though.

“We should be able to enjoy our foods. Nutritious and filling food that we enjoy would be more sustainable.”

Sleep is also crucial, and many Americans aren’t getting enough. Most guidelines suggest eight hours a night and more for kids and teenagers.

“Quantity and quality sleep is very important.”

Throughout his career, Webber has been active in observing the issues surrounding fitness because of the initial connection he felt during his childhood. He has also been active in addressing those issues and turning the tide. He hopes others will join him by doing their own part in encouraging young people from toddlers to teenagers to be more active by doing a combination of aerobic activity and muscle strengthening exercises. Webber said this is something that goes far beyond one’s own health and wellness. It is also something that could make a difference for the military and country as a whole.

“We need them for our national security.“

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans can be found here. More information on the National Physical Activity Plan can be found on the Physical Activity Alliance website.

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