By Nicole Leth, Fort Belvoir Armed Forces Wellness Center director and Joanna Reagan, Public Health Nutritionist, U.S. Army Public Health Center
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – As part of its August “P3 for All” campaign, the U.S. Army Public Health Center is encouraging all Army Leaders, Soldiers, Family members and Soldiers for Life to embrace the synergy of sleep, activity and nutrition, the core components of the Performance Triad, along with the important elements of mental readiness and spiritual readiness. The goal of this year’s campaign is to focus on the total Army Family to spread the word and encourage others to fulfill the target goals of P3.
Try a quick test. Think about the past week. Did you…
• Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per 24-hour period?
• Take short naps when possible?
• Get least 150 minutes of moderate exercise plus 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week and 3 strength sessions a week?
• Mix the types of intensity of exercises to keep your muscles challenged?
• Include recovery days after hard workouts?
• Eat at least 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day?
• Re-fuel 30–60 minutes after strenuous exercise?
• Drink plenty of water every day?
While each component of P3 is important, your performance improves when you focus on hitting all the targets.
Let’s look at the SAN targets a bit more closely, starting with sleep readiness. The majority of adults require 7–9 hours of sleep per 24-hour period, according to the National Sleep Foundation. There is no “badge of honor” for operating on less sleep. Try it out: get an average of 7-9 hours a night for the next 2 weeks and see if you have more energy and feel better. Sleep is a biological function that is crucial to sustain mental operations, such as learning and memory, decision making, attention and concentration, and reaction time.
Sleep and the Brain
• Sleep is the only time the brain can recover from daily life.
• Sleep is vital for clearing built-up toxic waste from the brain.
• Insufficient sleep reduces the ability to regulate emotions and increase stress response.
You should sleep as much as you can, whenever you can, as the situation allows. The vast majority of active-duty Soldiers and Family members require 7–9 hours of sleep per night to sustain performance. More sleep is better! You can maximize sleep and subsequent performance by timing your sleep and caffeine use optimally. Remember, only sleep replaces lost sleep.
Goals for Healthy Sleep
• Aim for the same bedtime and waking time (even on weekends).
• Create a quiet, dark, cool room for sleep.
• Get out of bed if you cannot sleep.
• Turn off electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime.
• Do not consume alcohol near bedtime.
• Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime.
• Do not go to bed hungry or too full.
Army Wellness Center/Armed Forces Wellness Center
One resource to help improve sleep hygiene for DOD personnel and beneficiaries at many Army installations and some joint bases is the Army/Armed Forces Wellness Center.
AWC/AFWCs offer sleep education services that include general information about healthy sleep habits, impact of sleep on health, and tips for improving sleep. The two-part Sleep Education class, with added health coaching, covers the basics of healthy sleep hygiene and walks clients through a self-assessment to increase awareness of their sleep habits. The class provides tools for sleep tracking and highlights the latest technology to assist with healthy sleep habits. Clients design healthy sleep goals and create a basic sleep plan to improve both their quantity and quality of sleep.
The next domain is activity, or physical readiness, the ability to apply and sustain the right amount of strength, endurance, and speed to meet the demands of work and play. Physical readiness comprises aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, and power.
Simple goals should include getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise plus 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Does this sound easy? Think again—only about 60 percent of Soldiers meet this goal weekly. Seventy-five minutes of vigorous exercise includes those heart-pumping, intense, full-body workouts that get your heart beating and give you a metabolic “after burn,” while 150 minutes of moderate exercise is the foundation for sustained performance and personal health.
Strength training is a key element many individuals neglect. Try focusing on two or three sets of muscle resistance exercises using machines, free weights, bands, or body weight two or three times a week. Try alternating different muscles on different days, focusing on the upper body, core, and lower body.
Our next SAN domain is nutritional readiness. It is important to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy or fortified soy alternatives and protein foods. Try to eat at least eight servings of fruits and vegetables every day. By focusing two-thirds of your plate on wholesome grains, fruits and vegetables, you will optimize not only your intake of vitamins and minerals but also fiber. Proactive nutrition is the best approach for performance.
Aim for these targets:
• Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
• Make half of your grains whole grains.
• Aim for 3 daily servings of low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt.
• Eat a variety of lean protein foods.
• Aim to eat 8 ounces of seafood a week.
• Drink plenty of water every day.
AWC/AFWCs offer free health education support
Need help getting started with your P3 goals? AWC/AFWCs are available to help improve individual and unit performance by using advanced testing technology to provide immediate feedback from highly trained health performance professionals. Who is eligible to participate in these services? The answer is all Army and DOD beneficiaries, including all service members and their families; retirees, and DOD civilians. Client appointments include a review of current health habits, analysis of risk factors, exploration of personal health/wellness goals, and identification of any barriers that may get in the way of consistent health habits. The best part is… AWC/AFWC services do not cost you anything!
AWC/AFWCs also conduct exercise testing and create exercise prescriptions. Exercise testing is an assessment of biometrics (height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure, heart rate) and the four components of health-related physical fitness: aerobic fitness (VO2 Submax), body composition (body fat percent), muscular fitness, and flexibility. Health educator’s use exercise test results as a planning tool for exercise prescription and motivation to assist clients in establishing and meeting reasonable physical activity, fitness and health goals.
If weight management is one of your goals, the AWC/AFWCs offer metabolic testing. Weight management involves a delicate balance between calories burned and calories consumed. Metabolic testing results provide the exact number of calories required for your weight loss, gain, or maintenance. The Upping Your Metabolism class teaches clients how to use their metabolic test results to reach their health goals.
The AWC/AFWCs also offer various methods to determine body composition, including the BOD POD®, ultrasound, or bioelectrical impedance. Body composition goes beyond the number seen on a scale and determines if weight comes from fat or fat-free mass. Fat-free mass includes everything the body is made of that is not fat, such as muscle and bone. There is a strong correlation between high body fat percentage and increased risk for diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Health educators provide tailored education and coaching based on the client’s body composition results and weight management goals.
If managing stress is one of your goals, the AWC/AFWCs offer stress management education and individual stress management sessions that teach coping skills and use biofeedback to practice stress relief techniques. The goal of the individual stress management session is to teach clients to control functions such as heart rate to reduce their stress and build resilience. The centers use a state-of-the art computerized stress relief system called emWave®. This non-invasive system helps clients learn to practice self-regulation of their heart rhythm, improve their energy management skills, and reduce their overall stress.
AWC/AFWC services would cost you approximately $3,000 at a fitness center or civilian provider, so take advantage of them, schedule an appointment with your local center, and celebrate Performance Triad Month with P3 for All!
For more information, check out https://p3.amedd.army.mil/ and https://p3.amedd.army.mil/my-army-wellness-center/about.
The U.S. Army Public Health Center enhances Army readiness by identifying and assessing current and emerging health threats, developing and communicating public health solutions, and assuring the quality and effectiveness of the Army’s Public Health Enterprise.
Note: The mention of any non-federal entity and/or its products is for informational purposes only, and not to be construed or interpreted, in any manner, as federal endorsement of that non-federal entity or its products.