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Total Fitness concepts embraces whole person

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE,Calif. -- We talk a lot about fitness these days. Physical fitness is important for our wartime mission, for the stamina required to do our job, for promotions and for military image and bearing. Total fitness, however, encompasses much more than an item needed to check a box on an evaluation. It involves a balance of physical, spiritual and mental fitness. It all starts, believe it or not, with physical well-being.

Consider the impact we have on the people and activities most important to us. Are we the best possible spouse, leader, follower or participant we can be to fulfill our commitments? If we aren't physically fit, we won't have the energy to fulfill our daily obligations and have enough energy to play with our children, our pets or enjoy activities with our friends. These people in our homes and communities are so important. They fill our hearts and depend upon us tremendously. Ever see a dog or a small child waiting for someone to come home? Ever try to play a sport without a key player? We should want to be the best person to live up to that expectation, to fulfill that responsibility.

Physical fitness does more than strengthen muscles and drop body fat. A person's immune system benefits from a boost that lasts hours after a workout, leaving us resistive to illness. Physical activity spurs the production of serotonin, the feel good chemical in our brains.

In fact, studies have shown that an hour or so of physical activity is as effective as most prescription medications for combating depression. Good cholesterol in our bodies floods our vascular system, collecting any fat present in the blood stream, depositing it in the liver for elimination. At that annual physical, you may be surprised with better cholesterol ratios, your vascular system cleaner of artery clogging plaque that could one day lead to a heart attack or a stroke.

Developing a healthy physical fitness program usually leads to changes in diet. Working out on a regular basis, you begin to realize the fuel you put into your body really matters; the better the fuel, the more productive your body. Keeping steady blood sugar leads to more consistent energy levels daily and prevents the onset of diabetes.

Regular exercise and a healthy diet lead to better quality of sleep. Adequate sleep is necessary for the body to repair tissue and cellular damage. Studies have shown a link between lack of sleep and an increase in high blood pressure and stress hormones. These can eventually lead to heart attacks and strokes, not to mention feeling chronically tired and irritable.

Feeling physically well and capable enhances all areas of our lives and strengthens our relationships with people. Instead of developing a physical fitness program to check off a box, the Air Force is encouraging us to embrace a total fitness program, designed to improve our lives, ensure our health and success through our careers and increase the enjoyment of our retirement.