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Military Health System

How Good Diet and Exercise Prevent Injury and Disease

Image of Photo of group doing pushups. Diet and exercise are fundamental for overall physical and mental, health and can aid in warding off chronic disease. (U.S. Navy photo by Brian Walsh)

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Being healthy is important for service members' careers. It's also a key to long-term health and disease prevention for everyone in every facet of your lives.

But being healthy doesn't just mean you're physically fit. It means you live a balanced life, attending to your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Both diet and exercise are essential to your overall health and allow your body to perform optimally.

"Diet and exercise help prevent disease and injury in many ways," said Aleisha Manson, a registered nurse at Kenner Army Health Clinic, in Fort Lee, Virginia. "Eating a proper diet high in nutrients helps the body in functional endurance and strength and ensures strong mental health."

For service members, this is part of the job.

"The military must be ready when called upon for action," she said. Service members must remain healthy to endure physical and mental stress, so "ensuring their bodies are strong and ready to go at all times" is key.

This is especially true for active-duty service members who "must remain resilient in order to 'rebound' when injuries occur," she said.

"A healthy body is conducive to resiliency."

Manson explained exercise helps maintain lean mass and cardio health. Consuming a diet rich in nutrients "helps prevent stress fractures and other anomalies that prevent military personnel from being ready for duty."

Likewise, keeping proper "physical and nutritional status helps the body combat disease," she said. "A stronger body is less likely to fall to disease."

In sum, "ensuring that the body is physically and nutritionally fit helps increase health, well-being, readiness, and resilience," she said. "It helps one's body fight illness and preps the body for health over time."

For example, when the body is healthy, "it has the reserve and resilience to fight or heal when attacked by an injury or illness," she said.

And during the aging process, "the longer the body is maintained in a healthy state [the better it] will help to prevent chronic disease," she said.

Even if there is a chronic disease that runs in your family, "a good diet and exercise will support long lasting health," said Manson.

As diet and exercise "arm" the body and mind to respond and perform better, this also means you're better able to delay or prevent certain chronic conditions.

Some of these include "diabetes, atherosclerotic coronary diseases bought on by high cholesterol, such as angina, strokes, and heart attacks," said Manson. "Most commonly, hypertension can be delayed, which can have repercussions in strokes, liver and kidney diseases."

Similarly, there are strong correlations between exercise and mental health. "Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function," according to a National Institutes of Health report.

Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal, according to the report.

The report recommends mental health professionals emphasize and reinforce the following health benefits from regular exercise to their patients:

  1. Improved sleep
  2. Increased interest in sex
  3. Better endurance
  4. Stress relief
  5. Improvement in mood
  6. Increased energy and stamina
  7. Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness
  8. Weight reduction
  9. Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness

For more information on a roadmap to military wellness and peak performance, check out the Human Performance Resources By CHAMP Total Force Fitness.

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Last Updated: July 15, 2022
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