February 10, 2014
By David Vergun
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 10, 2014) -- Since Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness launched its ArmyFit site two weeks ago, tens of thousands have logged on and are taking advantage of its features, designed to improve self-awareness in health and resilience.
In the first week alone, some 28,000 users visited the site where they took the Global Assessment Tool, or GAT, 2.0 and many then went on to view the myriad help and resources offered, said Lt. Col. Daniel Johnston, program manager for ArmyFit.
GAT 2.0 is an online assessment that's been scientifically validated and accurately measures five dimensions of health, including the emotional, social, spiritual, familial and physical. The physical dimension consists of sleep, activity and nutrition, the three parts of Performance Triad.
The metrics from those five dimensions are then aggregated through an algorithm that has been scientifically validated to accurately predict a person's life expectancy, Johnston said.
The assessment takes an average of 23 minutes to complete, is easy to do and the results are presented in colorful graphics depicting how the person rates in each of the five dimensions compared to his or her peers, he said.
The GAT 2.0 also scores a person's "real age" with their "actual age."
In other words, someone who is 35 years old but is especially strong on all or most of the categories might be several years younger in "real" but not "actual" age.
Each of those dimensions have been shown to be a strong predictor of life expectancy and quality of life and those taking GAT 2.0 will hopefully be motivated to use the advantages of ArmyFit's extensive information, programs and coaching.
Taking GAT 2.0 "is the first step in self-awareness and starts the on-boarding process to ArmyFit," Johnston said, adding that taking GAT 2.0 annually is a requirement for every Soldier and it is also the first step in using ArmyFit.
As to the help that's offered after taking GAT 2.0, Johnston said there are some 5,000 pages of sites relevant to those five dimensions on ArmyFit and, he noted, within the first week those topical pages generated around 86,000 page views.
Those topical pages, he continued, connect people with organizations, groups and other users. Johnston emphasized that GAT 2.0 protects people's confidentiality and that those who do the assessment can choose whether or not to continue on the site and how much information they're willing to share.
The original GAT, hosted on a site called "Soldier Fitness Tracker," was missing the "physical" dimension of sleep, activity, and nutrition. One of Johnston's first tasks was to build that "critically important" fifth dimension into a new GAT.
But while looking at building out the fifth dimension, Johnston discovered something else that disturbed him.
"I noticed right away that the site was archaic with very little follow-on training, advice or recommendations following completion of the GAT," he said.
"I just felt we were failing our Soldiers in terms of giving them great online feedback and training," he said. "It had become just another requirement to check the box, and see you next year. We needed to get our Soldiers engaged and provide them with some interactive content and information they needed to improve.
"So then my mission became much greater," he continued. "Not only did we need to enhance this assessment tool by making it truly global, we also needed to make the entire web platform much more engaging."
Johnston said he found solutions after doing a lot of research on the latest web engagement strategies, stuff like Web 3.0, and talking to a lot of users and experts.
His web developers also came up with a more enhanced graphical user interface. The site is easier to navigate and more appealing to the eye. It also includes shorter, more enticing videos, and the ability to interact with organizations, communities and persons, depending on the user's comfort level, he said.
Branding was important as well, he noted. So his team of developers changed the name of the site to ArmyFit, hoping to erase the memories of the older, clunkier site.
That all started about 18 months ago, he said.
His metrics analyst -- the person who compiles the statistics on site visits, page views and so on -- found after just the first week that instead of spending 30 seconds to a minute, users were loitering after taking GAT 2.0 an average of 4.5 minutes -- about a five-fold increase. And, there were about twice as many users as before.
Spc. Ryan Bradley, a medic at Fort Bliss, Texas, said he found the content to be interesting and compelling.
After completing GAT 2.0, he said the site offered content appropriate to his needs.
"I've never before been able to connect spirituality in my life," he said. The site "linked me to information that explained self-awareness, valuing self and having a purpose for being. Now I understand what that pillar means."
Bradley also said he clicked around on family topics and that dimension brought up a lot of resources as well. "It wasn't at all bland and offered certain aspects I wanted to improve in my life and great suggestions."
ArmyFit was also good at "helping me set goals and get a sense of accomplishment as I moved toward achieving them."
After taking the original GAT for several years, Bradley said the new 2.0 version is "a lot more accurate in finding parts of my life I'd like to improve." He also said the real-age data impressed him.
"I wish the site was there when I first came in the Army six years ago," he said.
Sgt. 1st Class Justin Littel found ArmyFit useful as well. He's currently attending the Army Senior Leader Course at Fort Gordon, Ga., and has been recommending the site to "over 50 NCOs at the leadership course."
Like Bradley, Littel said he wishes ArmyFit had launched earlier. In his case, he said he needed to track his weight and diet.
So in the absence of ArmyFit, Littel said he was using Foodlog and LiveStrong, two sites that track diet and weight. But now he's using ArmyFit. ArmyFit "is similar but offers even more."
Before joining the Army, Littel was a Marine infantryman. He did five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and was in pretty good shape, but when he joined the Army, he said his new job in signals found him sitting at a desk most of the day and that's when his weight spiked and physical fitness level went down.
After injuring his ankle several times, he said "I took great pity on myself. It was a real low point in my life."
Then he said he got help from an Army nutritionist who is an advocate of Performance Triad. He also received help from a master resilience trainer. And ArmyFit, of course.
Using the three programs, he said he dropped 50 pounds since last August.
He said his wife and six kids "are happy that I'm happy. It's made a huge difference in my outlook and well-being. I'm totally stoked."
Littel said there's still a stigma in the Army with seeking help and he thinks the more Soldiers use the tools of the site to improve themselves, the better the prospects for a culture shift.
WORK IN PROGRESS
Surveys and anecdotal evidence, Johnston said, point out "that we're going in the right direction."
Future plans include expansion of content that will provide "an ecosystem of knowledge from the Army, the Department of Defense and civilian accredited organizations."
Several enhancements will be added to the site like financial readiness assessment tools, an installation profile dashboard for leaders to see trends and other metrics for their population to understand their unique needs, aids in navigation and so on, he said.
Whatever the future holds, Johnston promised that the site will always focus first on the Soldier, providing them "appropriate, customized content."
Johnston encouraged members of the Army family to "let ArmyFit show you how to be 'Army Strong.'"
To access the ArmyFit site, visit https://armyfit.army.mil. Users may log in using CAC login or AKO username and password. Family members must be registered in DEERS. Those experiencing difficulties getting in or needing more information about GAT 2.0 or ArmyFit should contact CSF2 at http://csf2.army.mil/contact.html.
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