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Pillars of Resiliency: Physical

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
*Editor's note: This article is the second of a four-part series that will cover each of the four pillars of resiliency. The articles will run each week during the month of September.
The pillars of resiliency are designed to provide balance to one's life. There are four pillars: social and family, physical, mental and emotional, and spiritual. Each pillar has separate key concepts, but all add together to create a checklist that can help one drive toward success.

"When you look into a mirror, do you like the person looking back at you?" said Glenn Garcia, Mental Health Clinic outreach program manager. "If not, it has a negative effect on how you live your daily life."

The physical pillar's main category is a focus on a positive self image. The pillar is then broken down into four sub-categories of focus: weight, diet, exercise and sleep -- each designed to help improve one's self image.

"When looking at the physical pillar, one area is not necessarily more important over the others," said Alison Morrell, the Health and Wellness Center physiologist.

Maintaining a healthy weight throughout one's career is one of the more challenging lifestyle behaviors, Garcia said.

"Using weight as a means to measure health can be deceiving," Morrell said. "Societal influence has led us to believe that a bigger stature equals unhealthiness. A person can be unhealthy and not look, based on weight, to be unhealthy."

The Air Force uses Body Mass Index as a tool to determine population health risks. BMI uses a calculation of height and weight to find a value. A BMI lower than 25 is considered normal, between 25 and 30 is considered overweight, and higher than 35 as obese.

"The Air Force has made many changes to the way they evaluate health risks," Morrell said. "We have begun using abdominal circumferences instead of the body fat percentage to determine risks. From a risk perspective, men are predisposed to carry weight in their mid section while women are predisposed to carry weight in their hips and thighs. Regardless of their gender, a person carrying more weight in their mid-section has increased health risks."

Maintaining a healthy diet can be a means of controlling weight.

"A pattern of not eating healthy or making healthier choices can have a negative effect on your life," Garcia said. "Eating healthy and making healthy choices can help you be successful in controlling your weight and your health."

Certain things, such as smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, can detract from a healthy lifestyle, Garcia said.

"Twenty-three percent of Airmen on F.E. Warren [Air Force Base, Wyo.] are tobacco users; they use it as a way to deal with boredom out in the field and [because of] stress in their everyday life," Garcia said. "As for alcohol, it is the most predictive and destructive substance for Airmen. It is used as one of the biggest coping methods. We need to break this concept and instead replace drinking with other methods."

Maintaining a smoke-free and maintaining an acceptable or moderate intake of alcohol can help reduce weight gain; however, incorporating some sort of physical exercise in your life is a better replacement and a key to feeling better, Garcia said.

When asking the question of what is the best type of exercise program, the best program is one that someone is going to stick with.

"Finding something you like to do is the best exercise program," Morrell said. "For athletes, working out comes easy, partially because they have a driving force. For non athletes, one needs to find something that inspires them to change and that becomes their driving force."

An effective exercise program is different for everyone, Morrell said. There are four components of physical fitness: strength, flexibility, cardio and body fat. Depending on one's goals, all play a role in the outcome they are trying to achieve, but one or more may have higher weighted values.

"You have to approach physical training as an everyday thing," Garcia said. "Exercise helps you feel better and increases your chances to avoid injury and illness."

The final piece to the pillar is maintaining a sleep pattern. Sleeping is a way for one's body to replenish the energy used during the day.

"You need to create a sleep pattern in order to be effective at work," Garcia said. "A minimum of eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is required in order for your body to get the rest it needs. You cannot replace sleep with energy drinks. Destroying [your] sleep pattern and relying on artificial energy does not allow your body to rest."

Each piece of the physical pillar aids in maintaining a positive self image.

"In order to be successful, manage your own life," Garcia said. "Take control of it and do it yourself. You can take control, you have to take control."