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Eating, sleeping, exercise are keys to preserving health

(U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney)

(U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Physical health is at the core of a person’s ability to complete their mission. If they are injured or sick, or exhausted, they might be able to show up and do work, but their effectiveness will be diminished.

“Often times when we feel overwhelmed when trying to balance our lives, we chose to eliminate areas like getting adequate sleep, exercising, eating right and paying attention to any type of physical illness until we feel like we have the necessary time,” said Nicole Mayzner, 403rd Wing director of psychological health. “As much as it may be hard to imagine fitting these type of things into an already packed schedules, these areas are actually beneficial to maintain for a variety of reasons.”

While being healthy is important all the time, when preparing for a deployment it’s even more important to focus on adopting a healthy diet and regular exercise routine.

Lt. Col. Stuart Rubio, 815th Airlift Squadron "Flying Jennies" commander, has been training and preparing his squadron for future deployments since he took command two years ago.

“The deployed environment can put a lot of stress on your body,” Rubio said. “Whether it's dealing with the heat, the long hours, or simply executing your job in and out of the combat environment. The more physically fit you are, the better your body is able to handle these stresses.”

Three facets of preserving health include sleeping well, eating nutritiously and exercising regularly.

Sleep well

“Sleeping is not only essential to daily functioning and recharging, sleeping can also help you cope with stress, enhance problem solving abilities, strengthen your immune system, and help your body repair itself from physical injury or illness,” Mayzner said. “When our bodies do not get enough sleep over just a 24-hour period of time, our productivity is decreased by 25 percent.”

She also said that lack of sleep decreases concentration, impacts memory, increases risk for many health issues, causes weight gain, ages skin, and increases the amount of the stress hormone cortisol that is released from a person’s body.

“One of the most beneficial ways to ensure a healthy lifestyle is to prioritize your sleep, the same as you do your best eating and exercise habits,” said Maj. Jaime Harvey, chief of Human Factors and Operational Safety Issues, Headquarters Air Force Safety Center. “And one of the key ways you can do that is by trying your best to maintain a regular wake and sleep pattern, every day of the week.”

Some tips for people who would like to improve sleep from the office of the Air Force Surgeon General include setting a routine bedtime, creating a winding down routine at the end of the day, setting a regular wakeup time, allowing enough time to sleep seven to nine hours a night, avoiding electronics before bed and being mindful of the effect food and drinks have on their body.

There is also a free sleep resource available to military veterans at https://www.veterantraining.va.gov/insomnia/index.asp

Eat nutritiously

Joy Schaubhut 81st Training Wing Health Promotion Program coordinator said that to maintain a healthy diet, people should have a balance of fat, carbohydrates and protein for each meal because it slows digestion to help people stay full longer and improves vitamin absorption. When broken down she recommends 23-35 percent of calories should come from fat, 10-35 percent from protein and 45-65 percent from carbohydrates.

She also suggests eating breakfast every day, filling half of each plate with fruit and vegetables, choosing lean protein and fat free or low fat dairy products and fish, making half of all grains in a diet whole grains, eating smaller portions more often, eating one serving of nuts or seeds per day, and limiting calories from sugar to no more than 100 calories per day.

The Keesler Health and Wellness Center is available to Reserve Citizen Airmen to help improve health through free classes, coaching and resources. To learn more about the HAWC, call 228-376-3171. Also, for more information on healthy eating and recipe ideas, visit https://www.choosemyplate.gov

Exercise regularly

Mayzner said that exercising regularly can help people get more done by boosting their energy and ability to concentrate, increasing positive moods, and helping better manage physical and mental stress by increasing concentrations of norepinephrine, which is a chemical in your brain that helps moderate the brain’s response to stress.

“More often than not, exercising is an effective means of stress relief for many of us,” Mayzner said.
“In fact 62 percent of 403rd Wing participants in a recent mental health survey reported that going to the gym or running was one of the means they used to handle stress.”

Working out for even 30 minutes a day, a few times a week can significantly boost a person’s mood and can also alleviate symptoms of depression or anxiety. For added benefit, Mayzner suggested going for a run outside in the sunshine (with sunscreen) for additional Vitamin D because it can also help lessen the chance of experiencing depressive symptoms.

For some, finding the time to maintain a fitness routine can be the most difficult part. Rubio said he makes time for fitness by making it a priority in his schedule.

“For me, that means I get my workout in first thing in the day,” he said. “I know that trying to get it in during the work day or after work is not a reliable strategy.”

He said he also utilizes a fitness coach and occasionally takes part in group workouts because exercising with someone else adds a social element and a means of accountability.

“There are going to be times when you don't feel motivated to work out, but knowing you'll leave your workout partner hanging if you don't show up, can be just the push you need to get out the door,” he said.

“However you do it, having a long term plan of when you're going to work out and what you're going to do for those workouts greatly increases the chances that you'll actually do them,” Rubio said.