Keeping soldiers active first prong on Performance Triad
FALLS CHURCH, Va. (Army News Service, Aug. 9, 2013) -- "As an Army we must be ready and resilient," said the Army's surgeon general.
To achieve these goals, "we need to fully appreciate the impact that the Performance Triad has on our daily lives," said Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, who is also the commander of Army Medical Command. The Performance Triad includes activity, nutrition and sleep.
Lt. Col. Scott Gregg, an Army physical therapist and expert on how physical activity affects the body, said Soldiers already understand the importance of working out to build strength and stamina. But citing work done by obesity expert Dr. James Levine, he said new studies suggest that workouts alone are not a guarantee of good health.
For Soldiers and family members who are sitting all day in an office or driving a vehicle, a 30-minute workout, while beneficial, is not enough to keep the pounds off and stimulate the body's metabolic engine, Gregg said, citing Levine's work.
"The human body was just not built to sit all day," he said, adding that there are some surprisingly simple and effective things Soldiers and their families can do to stay fit.
In addition to a daily workout, Gregg advises using the stairs whenever possible, taking a short walking break every hour, perhaps to the water fountain to rehydrate or just a quick trip around the building.
Ideally, moving around would be 10 minutes each hour, but unfortunately, that is not always possible, he said.
"The important thing is to just keep moving, ideally 10,000 steps a day, which can be measured by an inexpensive pedometer or by a smartphone app," Gregg said.
Some Soldiers can benefit by keeping a diary of how much time they spend sitting in the office or reclining in the easy chair watching TV. He said they'd be surprised at how much of the time they're sedentary.
Workouts combined with activity breaks throughout the day can contribute greatly to such things as weight loss and reducing the odds for a host of chronic disease such as depression, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and some forms of cancer.
The reverse is true for those leading a sedentary lifestyle, especially those with bad habits in the sleep and nutrition aspects of the Performance Triad, Gregg said.
People who lead a sedentary lifestyle are more apt to consume junk food and have poor sleeping habits, compounding the negative effect.
"It's a synergistic effect," Gregg explained.
DON'T OVERDO IT
Gregg cautioned that too much exercise can lead to overuse injuries and is something Soldiers particularly should watch for, as many are highly motivated to be in top physical shape for personal and mission goals.
Warning signs for overuse injuries include joint pain and muscle soreness.
"Some Soldiers think it's cool to exercise until you puke," he said. "I've even seen it on T-shirts. That's definitely not cool, and it's not healthy either."
An ideal workout would be 150-plus minutes per week, including at least two muscle strengthening sessions involving all major muscle groups, he said. There should also be time set aside to warm up prior to each workout to reduce the likelihood of injury.
Another exercise principle, he said, is to gradually increase the intensity and duration of a new workout.
"The Army has a good exercise plan in its physical readiness training manual," he said, "but I also realize many Soldiers are into other programs as well, such as CrossFit, P90X, Insanity and [Performance Triad] Pyramid."
He cautioned Soldiers not to dive right into a new exercise without a break-in period.
Also, workouts should ideally include movements for strength, endurance, balance, agility and coordination for a holistic effect. The Performance Triad has those.
Another way to decrease the odds of injury is to wear the right gear, he said, including mouthguards and other devices for used in Combatives training, as well as good running shoes.
Finally, Soldiers experiencing pain or acute muscle soreness should seek treatment, said Gregg. Small problems can lead to bigger ones requiring a profile or hospitalization.
Soldiers who do end up on profile should, nonetheless, remain active, he said.
"Commanders tell me they want their Soldiers on profile to get back in shape as this is a unit readiness issue," he said.
Army physical and occupational therapists and others routinely work with Soldiers, designing workouts that rehabilitate injuries and maintain conditioning so that their profile period is shortened and so that they don't need as much time to get to full recovery once they're off profile, he said.
While it is the responsibility of every Soldier to ensure he or she is physically fit, it is the responsibility of leadership to ensure Soldiers are working out correctly, he said.
The activity portion of the Performance Triad empowers leaders to engage their Soldiers in effective physical training that minimizes injury risk.
Editor's Note: This is the first part of three-part series about the Army's "Performance Triad," which includes activity, nutrition and sleep.
Related content: Eating for health, performance second prong of Performance Triad, Restful sleep third prong of Performance Triad (Parts two and three of the performance triad)