Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

These Popular Exercise Programs Work for Veterans

Half of veterans exercise regularly. Here’s how to step it up, or take that first step

spinner image an orange theory class
People work out at an Orangetheory in New York City.
Nicole Bengiven/The New York Times/Redux
spinner image people hold up a welcome home sign as someone from the military stands before an american flag. the words aarp veteran report appear above the flag
Getty Images/AARP

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published every two weeks. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

Research indicates that half of all veterans exercise regularly and a third don’t exercise at all. But a majority of those non-exercisers would like to start a fitness program. That’s not surprising, since regular exercise has a wealth of benefits, from improved cardiovascular health to reduced risk of developing major diseases, including type 2 diabetes (veterans have double the risk of developing diabetes compared to the general population).

With so many exercise programs out there, it can be hard to navigate the offerings and decide which one is right for you. Here’s a look at some of the most well-known options that are widely available around the country, to help you find the best long-term match for achieving your personal fitness goals.


Todd Widman, a Marine infantry officer who is now the company’s seminar staff development manager, told AARP Veteran Report that CrossFit has a “rich history of veteran involvement.” In fact, some CrossFit workout series are named after fallen soldiers.

Though CrossFit has gained a reputation for tough workouts, Widman said the only person you are competing against is yourself, adding that “we understand veterans because we are veterans.”

CrossFit offers a variety of exercise programs including short and long as well as fast and slow workouts. Some combine cardio, gymnastics movements, and heavy and light weights.

Active-duty members can receive financial support toward certification and opening their own affiliate gym after transitioning out of the military.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

Stretch Lab

Veterans may find this program appealing, since it helps improve imbalances and range of motion, and decrease chronic pain. After all, as Bryan Crowe, a U.S. Navy veteran and owner of two Colorado StretchLab locations, told AARP Veteran Report, “veterans have put their bodies through a tremendous amount of stress from training, potential combat and active service. Veterans may also have past injuries that they have sustained during their service.”

Stretching can also reduce the risk of injury and help with performing everyday activities, in addition to more physical ones. Stretch Lab offers one-on-one 25- and 50-minute sessions, as well as group sessions, with a flexologist who guides you through stretches, sometimes providing a small amount of resistance. 

Club Pilates

Pilates is a system of exercises, sometimes done on a reformer machine, designed to lengthen and strengthen muscles, increase mobility and improve mind-body connection through breath work and precise movements. Newcomers can expect nine types of classes offered at several different levels, which means that Club Pilates can accommodate a wide range of veterans of varying abilities.

“Veterans are very experienced in listening to orders, so the rigorous Pilates regimen will come naturally to them,” said Will Beale, a former U.S. Navy captain who now owns a Washington, D.C., Club Pilates gym.

One of the advantages of Pilates, he added, is that it won’t put any additional wear and tear on joints and muscles. It is also excellent for rebuilding, repairing and rehabbing past injuries, and preventing future ones.


The “theory” behind the name is about moving your heart rate through five zones into the Orange Zone, where you try to spend 12 minutes or more. Each one-hour group session includes the use of heart rate monitors, with the heart rate zones of participants posted on large screens.


AARP® Vision Plans from VSP™

Exclusive vision insurance plans designed for members and their families

See more Insurance offers >

Sessions involve the use of rowing machines and treadmills (or bikes or low-impact strider machines, if needed), along with strength training. An app tracks your progress.

Pure Barre

Pure Barre may conjure up images of former dancers and gymnasts, but longtime clients extend well beyond that group.

Marshall Tucker and his wife have owned multiple Pure Barre locations since they retired from the U.S. Army. He told AARP Veteran Report that the program is a combination of Pilates, ballet, yoga and low-impact movements that are high in intensity and technique. 

“Veterans tend to thrive in new environments because they aren’t afraid of failing but see new opportunities as learning experiences, and typically with this mindset [they] can excel from day one,” he said. Most importantly, he emphasized, the classes are great stress relievers.

The bottom line

Most programs offer a free introductory session, so take advantage of the chance to try a few out. Ask lots of questions while you are there to decide which is the best one for you.

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published every two weeks. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?