FORT MEADE, Md. -- The typical Soldier visits the doctor four times a year for 20 minutes a visit. That means the average time spent on health care is just 100 minutes or 1.7 hours a year.

Is 100 minutes really enough time for a doctor to spend treating illness and making recommendations to stay well for an entire year? Most of us spend more than 100 minutes a day taking care of our pets, our gardens, responding to email, watching a movie, washing our cars or paying bills.

For something as important as taking care of our health, why is it acceptable that doctors spend so little time promoting healthy behaviors only when you are ill? That would be equivalent to only filling your car with gasoline after you have run out of gas and are now stuck on the side of the road.

Taking care of ourselves takes forethought and planning. Spending just 100 minutes a year prioritizing how you will plan your health and wellness can only lead to inadequate prevention, continued illness and poor health practices.

To effectively engage in good health, one must capitalize on the remaining 525,500 minutes left in the year to impart healthy behaviors.

The Army surgeon general calls these 525,500 minutes of the year, when not seeing a health care provider, the person's "white space" or "life space." (See page 11 in link below.) This is 99.9 percent of our lives -- the time that we live our lives, go to work, spend time with family and friends, and stay at home.

During this larger portion of time, we must all develop strategies that will build a framework for preventive health care through healthy habits. The surgeon general wants to turn our health care systems into a system of health by the year 2020, using this white space appropriately.

But how do we do this?

The three behaviors most influential to fostering good health are sleeping at least eight hours per night, exercising 30 to 60 minutes each day with moderate activity and eating healthy foods.

Good nutrition, sleep and exercise are called the "Performance Triad" since these are the three main elements that determine endurance and successful energy levels for performance. The Performance Triad will increase readiness, decrease health care costs and increase mental acuity.

Improving healthy behaviors in these three life areas will ensure better health outcomes and improved wellness. Sleep, nutrition and exercise are the vehicles that will move us from a health care system into a system of health.

Look for future articles on how to make simple lifestyle changes in these areas that make huge strides toward better health.

Col. Danny B.N. Jaghab, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Activity at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center

Editor's note: For more information, go to