Service members in the National Guard need to maintain a level of optimal physical performance (after all, that’s what the PT test is for), but that’s not the only reason to be physically fit. Physically well individuals have more self-esteem, better emotional health, and tend to get sick less – not to mention, they are better able to weather the physical strain of being in the military. Being strong is only part of it – physical wellness includes flexibility, nutrition, medical self-care, and the right amount of physical activity to encourage optimal health.
What does “physical wellness” mean?
- Physical wellness means avoiding substance abuse and eating a balanced diet, both of which will keep your body running better and longer:
Avoiding substance abuse includes steering clear of drugs, cigarettes, alcohol or other substances that can interfere with the way your body and mind functions. Physically well individuals practice temperance when they do drink, shun cigarette smoking, avoid illegal drugs, and don’t misuse prescription drugs.
Eating a balanced diet of vegetables, fruit, proteins and carbohydrates provides necessary fuel and nutrients to your muscles, organs and bones. Physically well individuals who eat right also think more clearly, have more energy, and fight off sickness more easily.
- Physical wellness means engaging in balanced physical activity and knowing your limits to prevent physical injury:
Balanced physical activity is critical to maintaining physical wellness, as a lopsided approach (for example, too much strength training and not enough stretching) can cause muscle stiffness, stress to bones, impeded cardiovascular health, or permanent harm to joints. Physically well individuals improve flexibility, agility and cardiovascular health in addition to strength.
Knowing your limits can be as important as working out, as it protects your body from the excess stress of working out too much. Physical wellness means listening to your body for warning signs of injury and allowing yourself sufficient time to recover and rest after a workout.
- Physical wellness means taking care of yourself and maintaining good health with regular check-ups:
Taking care of yourself if you’re sick is as much a preventative measure as it is a facet of physical wellness. Getting proper rest and necessary medical attention when feeling ill promotes faster healing and reduces the likelihood of a chronic condition.
Regular check-ups are an integral part of physical health, and are often rewarded by insurance as a means of preventative medicine. Physically well individuals foster an open, honest relationship with their primary care or family physician, ensuring they are always informed and on top of their physical well-being.
Signs of physical distress
Learn how to identify the warning signs of physical distress through the list below.
- Recurring pain in joints, muscles or elsewhere in the body
- High Body Mass Index
- Difficulty breathing
- Abuse of substances including alcohol, cigarettes, illegal/prescription drugs
- Unexplained exhaustion
- Poor eating habits (refusing to eat, eating too much, binging and purging)
- Poor safety habits (risk-taking, failing to wear protective gear, etc.)
Tips to improve your physical wellness
- Maintain a diverse exercise schedule. PT is a part of every service member’s experience, but whether you are active in National Guard or a traditional Guardsman, integrating a regimen of strength, flexibility, endurance and cardio training is necessary to maintain good overall physical health and prevent injury.
- Be safe. Accidents do happen, but you can prevent health problems and injuries by wearing a helmet or seat belt, ensuring you are not under the influence when you get behind the wheel, and practicing safe sex. Buddy Care applies: whenever possible, be a buddy to someone else or have a buddy nearby.
- Listen to your body. Pain and discomfort are warning signs that your body gives you to tell you to stop what you’re doing. Whether you experience pain during, after or unrelated to your activity, don’t let it go untended. If the pain is severe, seek help immediately.
- Cook more, eat out less. A simple way to know what you’re eating is to prepare food yourself. Using fresh ingredients to create a wide variety of dishes expands your palette and improves your eating habits. Best of all, it’s fun to play Bobby Flay for an evening, and you can share your culinary exploits with friends and family, who will no doubt appreciate the home-cooked meal.
- Little adjustments go a long way. Small efforts can make a big impact on your physical wellness. Some small changes you can implement today include checking the nutrition labels before purchasing food items, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, getting to bed a little earlier, and having a bite of breakfast in the morning. Small successes today can inspire great successes tomorrow.
- Practice “sleep hygiene.” Creating a simple routine approximately 60-90 minutes before going to sleep can greatly aid in both falling asleep more easily, and experiencing more restful slumber. Some tips include turning off the TV at least an hour before you want to sleep, relaxing all your senses (burn a scented candle or incense, wear something soft against your skin, listen to pleasant music, etc.), or taking a bath or shower about 30 minutes before sleep.