News: Staying healthy with the Performance Triad
Story by Sgt. Samuel Northrup
FORT HOOD, Texas – You are in the middle of a 4 mile run - suddenly everything seems to take a turn for the worse: Your heart is pounding, your breathing is labored, your legs feel like lead blocks and you begin dragging your feet. You feel as though there is no way to continue the run.
Many Soldiers can experience this type of fatigue during physical training. However, some Soldiers may not realize that three key factors can impact their performance: Sleep, activity, and nutrition, which are part of the Army Medicine’s Performance Triad.
The Performance Triad is a plan to improve readiness and increase resilience through public health initiatives and leadership engagement. Lifespace, the time not spent with a health care provider, is the focus of the plan.
“The average person goes to the doctor maybe once or twice a year,” said Maj. Ronald Cole, the officer in charge of the Soldier and Family Fit Facility. “That is a short period out of the year you spend sitting in front of a doctor; It is critical to make better decisions in your lifespace to be healthy, not just for today, but for years to come.”
Healthy nutrition is different for each individual according to Allyson Pritchard, the director for the Fort Hood Army Wellness Center. It can depend on multiple factors such as resting metabolic rate and the daily activity a Soldier endures. Soldiers can visit the AWC to find out their RMR and get nutritional guidance.
Testing for the maximum oxygen consumption and resting metabolic rate gives an indication about how an individual body works, Cole said. Now a Soldier can know what their caloric intake needs to be to maintain, gain or lose weight.
“The challenge is to balance nutrition with our current activity level,” said Cole. “Our outdoor activity has changed drastically because the world has changed. Many of our Soldiers have technical skillsets that are sit-type jobs … in order to stay healthy we need to continue to put an emphasis on those physical activities that kept us healthy in the past.”
The Army is good at keeping Soldiers active while they are on-duty, said Cole. It is still imperative Soldiers maintain an active lifestyle when off duty as well. The average person only takes about 3,000 to 5,000 steps a day; the target for most people should be at least 10,000.
Activity and nutrition alone are not enough to maintain a certain performance level according to Pritchard. Reduced or inefficient sleep has a negative impact on the body in many ways Soldiers may not realize; it is not just psychological, but physiological as well.
“If you get 5.5 hours of sleep or less, you are walking around as if you’re legally intoxicated,” said Cole. “Each day that you get 5.5 hours of sleep or less, your deficit gets greater and your cognition is diminished. Similar to a functional alcoholic, you may think you are doing well, but everybody else can see you are making mistakes.”
The body needs rest and recovery, Cole said. With less sleep a person will have increased cortisol levels which leads to increased fat consumption and storage. Sleep is also crucial to muscle and mental recovery; people who work on little sleep are hurting themselves ultimately.
Whether it is sleep, nutrition or activity, Cole encouraged Soldiers and family members to use the AWC for education and support. Family support is important, as they are big components in the lifespace.
“Family is an extension of the Soldier,” Cole said. “If the family is not healthy, generally the Soldier is not healthy … whoever is in that family circle for that Soldier, retiree, or Department of the Army civilian, they all need to be in the same mindset of being healthy.”
For those interested in finding out more about the Performance Triad visit: http://armymedicine.mil/Pages/performance-triad.aspx