An important part of leading a healthy life is maintaining physical activity that benefits your body and your mental health.

This year, DVA  Veterans’  Health Week reminds the veteran community how important physical activity is and to Get Moving to support your health and wellbeing.

Dr Ben Singh, exercise physiologist and Research Officer at GMRF is working on our Healthy Veteran research project. The research is funded by RSL Queensland as part of their $14million commitment to veterans’ mental health. This research looks at the physical and mental impact of service on veterans.

Dr Ben says, “Military personnel often have physically active lifestyles, including regular physical training and playing sports. However, after leaving the Defence Force, research shows many veterans reduce their exercise and physical activity4.”

Reducing your physical activity after discharging from the military can lead to many negative health effects such as weight gain (and obesity), high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes and heart disease 1–3. During the transition to civilian life, it’s important to keep physically active, both for your short and long-term physical and mental wellbeing.

There are many important physical and mental health benefits of keeping physically active after you retire from the military3,4. Research shows that keeping physically active can help you to5:

  • Manage (or improve) your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • Maintain (or improve) your muscle strength and fitness.
  • Help prevent unhealthy weight gain and help with weight loss
  • Create opportunities for socialising and meeting new people
  • Help you to prevent and manage mental health problems, including anxiety and depression
  • Improve your sleep and improve your energy
  • Help you develop and maintain overall physical and mental well-being.

Dr Ben recommends consulting with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program if you have any existing injuries, disabilities or medical conditions. Your health care provider may recommend working with an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist to learn more about exercises that are right for you.

Conditions such as low back pain, hip and knee problems, and high blood pressure are common in veterans4. Research has shown that exercise and physical activity can help to reduce the risk of developing many conditions – it can also help improve symptoms if you already experience these conditions5–7.

“A few small changes now can benefit greatly in the future, you don’t have to train for the Olympics but doing some yard work, or going for a short walk can make a difference” Dr Ben Singh

Visit the DVA website to find our more information about Veterans’ Health Week.


  1. Nelson KM, McFarland L, Reiber G. Factors Influencing Disease Self-Management Among Veterans with Diabetes and Poor Glycemic Control. J Gen Intern Med. 2007;22(4):442-447. doi:10.1007/s11606-006-0053-8
  2. Caddick N, Smith B. The impact of sport and physical activity on the well-being of combat veterans: A systematic review. Psychol Sport Exerc. 2014;15(1):9-18. doi:
  3. Milanese, S, Crocker, M, Ransom, M and Sach E. What Are the Physical and Mental Wellbeing Benefits Veterans Achieve through Participating in Sporting Activities?; 2018.
  4. Kelsall, H., Sim, M., Van Hooff, M., Lawrence-Wood, E., Hodson, S., Sadler, N., Benassi, H., Hansen, C., Avery, J., Searle A, Ighani, H., Iannos, M., Abraham, M., Baur, J., Saccone, E., & McFarlane A. Physical Health Status Summary Report, Mental Health and Wellbeing Stud. Canberra; 2018.
  5. Department of Health. Physical Activity.; 2014.
  6. Warburton DER, Bredin SSD. Health benefits of physical activity: a systematic review of current systematic reviews. Curr Opin Cardiol. 2017;32(5):541-556. doi:10.1097/HCO.0000000000000437
  7. Cramer H, Pokhrel B, Fester C, et al. A randomized controlled bicenter trial of yoga for patients with colorectal cancer. Psychooncology. 2016;25(4):412-420. doi:10.1002/pon.3927