Coast Guard All Hands is featuring the monthly “Wellness Wednesday” series to help Coast Guard members learn more about healthy living. Blog author Tim Merrell is the Coast Guard’s Health Promotion Program Manager, a prior health services technician, has a bachelor’s degree in health education, and is a certified personal trainer. Please contact Timothy.M.Merrell@uscg.mil for topic recommendations or questions.
Part of a healthy lifestyle consist of getting a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise a week, eating the proper amount of nutrients for your activities, and getting eight hours of sleep a night. A healthy lifestyle is beneficial to us as an individual and organization, yet we often partake in less than optimal choices, dropping the priority of exercise, nutrition, and sleep in our daily lives. If we allow it, these bad choices can often snowball, and become habits.
What are the benefits to the command for living healthy lifestyles? Why should we care about these things? What is our Return on Investment (ROI) for promoting a healthy lifestyle? To determine our ROI, let’s look at the benefits of a few of the elements of a healthy lifestyle.
Being physically fit and providing members the opportunity to exercise will have a major ROI for units. Exercise is key to improving physical fitness attributes such as strength and cardiorespiratory endurance. Exercise has also been linked to reduction of high blood pressure, cholesterol, stress and depression. Providing the opportunity to engage in physical activity has also been linked to an increase in morale. Even if we cannot get a full workout in, moving around once an hour can be beneficial.
Consuming the correct amount of water, proteins, carbohydrates and fats, based on the fitness activity, is often a forgotten factor that can play a huge role in a member’s performance. I like to think of food as fuel. If you put bad fuel in your car, it will not run properly. The same is true for the body, and knowing the proper amounts and type of fuel is key to optimal performance. If you would like your unit’s menu evaluated by a registered dietician, send me a typical menu for a week. I will forward this information to Coast Guard reservist and registered dietician, Lt. Cmdr. Lauren Trocchio , who has volunteered to evaluate the menus and provide some possible healthy alternatives.
According to the National Institute of Health, sleep deprivation can noticeably affect a person’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Some researchers have noticed that the lack of sleep was the equivalent of a person who was intoxicated. Managing your sleep cycles can be particularly challenging with irregular work schedules. For tips on how to optimize your sleep, visit the Human Performance Resource Center’s Sleep Optimization section .
One way to evaluate the ROI is the take the Boat Forces Fitness assessment* either as an individual or as a unit. Make some positive changes, over the next three months, like exercising on a regular basis, eating more fruits and vegetables, and getting more sleep. If you need assistance with finding improvement resources, feel free to contact me. After the three months, take the boat forces test again. If you follow these suggestions, I am sure you will have noticeable improvements at the end of three months.
We do preventive maintenance on our ships to ensure they are ready when called to action, but sometimes we fail to provide maintenance on our most valuable asset – our people. No one knows when the next natural disaster or emergency will happen which will test the resiliency of our members. We do know that providing an atmosphere of a healthy lifestyle will improve morale, improve the health of our members, and help prepare them to meet all challenges. Although this may cost a little more time, and in some cases a little more money, the mission, and most importantly our people are worth it.
*Before taking the assessment, follow the protocols and procedures in COMDTINST M6200.1D enclosure (3)