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Ask Stew: How Should I Address General Health and Wellness as I Age?



You will start your journey through life full of energy, but start to slow down as each decade passes. Many of the things you got away with in your 20s will become difficult or impossible in your 30s and 40s.

Here is a great email from an Army first sergeant who is realizing that a different decade requires different methods if they want to stay capable, mission ready, healthy and well.

Stew, I recently read one of your articles and found your podcast where you mentioned that “you will be older longer than you are younger in your military career.” I get what you are saying. I am 35. I’ve been in the Army for over 15 years and would like to serve at least another 10 years, but I’m starting to fall apart, getting poor health numbers on blood work, have nagging injuries and I’m overweight. Any advice? Thanks – First Sergeant.

First, thanks for your service over the past 15 years of sustained combat deployments. These have not been easy for any branch of service. The wear and tear of the job starts to join forces with the age of the soldier to cause changes in recovery times, the ability to move fast and flexibility. You also can’t eat anything you want, like you did 10-15 years ago.

One thing you will learn in your mid- to late 30s is, you no longer can outwork a bad diet or survive with intermittent sleep schedules. Your recovery from day-to-day stress will require good nutrition and sleep. If you can take care of that, you will have figured out 90% of the physical, mental and emotional problems you face.

Related Articles: Ways to De-Stress/Get Healthy

Treat Yourself like a Beginner

It may not be easy, but start by pulling the reins on your training and focus on easy non-impact cardio, stretching and mobility work. Add in strength training or calisthenics as you start to feel better, but keep it simple. Use fitness and exercise as a stress-reducing tool instead of doing crushingly hard workouts that only make you sore, tired and more over-trained and over-stressed.

Soon, you will progress to your old workouts, but as you age, you should establish a few new rules.

Mix Running with Non-Impact Cardio

There’s no need to run every day. Mix in walking, biking, elliptical, rowing or swimming on days between the runs or rucks required for your job. On the days you run, make sure you stretch well afterward and mix in yoga-based mobility sessions for 5-10 minutes after any cardio session.

No matter how you feel, you should devote a day or two of the week exclusively to flexibility and mobility. Non-impact cardio is fine to warm up, but seriously consider adding a mobility day and then never skipping it.

Portion Control

Focus on eating better but also eating less. Most of us just eat too much, even if we’re only eating good foods. Reducing caloric intake is the key to losing weight, and it may even help you with the blood pressure, cholesterol, triglyceride and blood sugar numbers in your blood screening. With some new eating habits, you may turn around poor health screening numbers in less than a year.

Sleep

The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. A lack of regular sleep definitely contributes to your overall stress load. If you can learn to sleep with some new protocols and habits, the additional rest will be a huge win and make you feel young again.

General Health and Wellness

All tactical athletes need to have high general health and wellness standards. They should strive to set personal records with their test numbers as part of their annual medical checkups.

Being mentally, physically, emotionally and medically healthy is the absolute minimum standard, regardless of our profession. For the tactical athlete, anything other than healthy makes you a potential liability in your job.

Not addressing these issues can make you very sick. We have a responsibility to put time and effort into our health and wellness. If we don’t, we’ll eventually be forced to put that time into dealing with our illnesses one day.

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