Investing in health pays dividends

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Tracey Tenney
  • 39th Medical Support Squadron commander
Most Airmen may have heard of the Thrift Savings Plan. 

Well, there is another investment Air Force members might consider taking advantage of - an investment in our health. 

If this investment is not started as a young adult, it can be started later. However, just as with saving money for the future, starting late may require breaking bad habits and making up for lost time. 

There are several components to living a healthy lifestyle. 

The first is exercise. Physical fitness acts as a framework for good health. Engaging in vigorous aerobic activity at least three hours a week and in strengthening exercises once or twice a week will help us maintain our cardiovascular and muscular health. 

The next component is to eat healthy. Eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables of varying color every day, be sure to incorporate whole grains into your diet and minimize processed food, which includes "fast food." 

With portion sizes increasing as fast as most waistlines, we should keep track of how much we eat. 

How many of us are aware that a serving size of meat is approximately the size of a deck of cards? Or that a portion of ice cream is approximately the size of half of a baseball? 

Also, we should consider eating slowly as it takes approximately 20 minutes for our stomach to tell us it's full. 

The last component is making healthy lifestyle choices. 

First - and my personal favorite - is to get a good night's sleep. Try to sleep between seven to eight hours. The body uses our sleep time to make repairs. Research has shown that people who sleep less than seven hours a night are more likely to be overweight. 

Secondly, if you smoke, stop! Now! 

Thirdly, we should be aware of our waist size. Not only is waist size an important part of our physical training test score, but belly fat is thought to be more dangerous than fat stored in other parts of the body in terms of our overall health. 

Invest in your health and you may reap the benefits now and for years to come.