Thursday, December 6, 2012

Don't Put Away The PT Belt Just Yet

A guest post by Emily Walsh

Now that you're a veteran, the days of rising up early for PT are over. That extra hour or two of sleep is great. No one would argue that you deserve it after working hard serving your country and preserving its freedom. With that same can-do spirit, you can also preserve your health for many years to come.

It's important for retired soldiers to maintain the good habits they learned while in service. Having a healthy body and mind are the cornerstones to leading a productive life. Although no one is keeping track of your exercise activity anymore, it's good to get moving at least thirty minutes to an hour every day. Whether that's walking, jogging, or playing a vigorous sport, it's been shown that exercising at least five days a week has many heart-healthy benefits such as decreased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure). Regular exercise also increases energy and produces endorphins, hormones that regulate mood and help prevent depression.

Eating healthy also ensures you stay in tip-top form. Make sure you remain hydrated with plenty of water, eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and limit your consumption of red meat and alcohol. If you are looking to increase your knowledge of nutrition or learn some new cooking skills, the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs offers hands-on nutrition education in their Healthy Teaching Kitchens. To learn more about this program, visit the VA's website here.

Mental health is just as important as your physical well-being. As your body needs exercise in order to remain at its best, your mind needs to be active. Keep yours sharp with word games and puzzles. Stay on top of current events by reading the newspaper, or take continuing education courses in a subject that has always held your interest. Public facilities such as the library often provide entertaining and instructional classes at no charge. In addition, having a good support system of family and friends is invaluable. Stay connected in person and through social media. Your local VA chapter also has socializing opportunities to connect with fellow veterans at dinners, dances, and holiday events.

Last, but not least, remember the saying about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. See your doctor regularly for physical examinations. It may seem like a chore, but screenings prevent or help catch early the potential health problems that veterans can face. The stresses of frequent deployments and occupational exposures to certain biological or chemical elements sometimes show up later in life. Keep screenings up to date for health risks such as mesothelioma, PTSD, depression, and heart disease. The VA website has an index of healthcare topics that can be referenced for more information. Also, your local VA chapter will have a listing of specialists in your area who are compassionate and respectful of your needs as a veteran.

As you enjoy your life as a veteran, remember that taking care of yourself should be one of your top priorities.

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