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Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

“Screen time” impacts dream time

Your “screen time” might be impacting your sleep. Learn how to reduce the harmful effects of blue light and technology.

Time spent with smartphones, tablets, and computers can impact your ability to get healthy sleep. The primary culprit is exposure to blue light that’s emitted from all electronic devices. Using them at night can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm and suppress the secretion of melatonin, a powerful sleep hormone. When your eyes are exposed to artificial light, you might feel more awake when you should be getting ready to wind down. Try these tips to minimize the impact of blue light:

  • Set a “2-hour” rule. Turn off handheld devices and televisions at least 2 hours before bedtime. And dim the lights at home. Try to avoid lying in bed and scrolling social media and email before bedtime too. If you happen to read something stress-inducing or upsetting, your day might end on a negative note. Try reading a book, journaling, or reflecting on something you feel grateful for instead.
  • Block the blue. If you can’t avoid electronic devices before bed, some tools can help offset blue-light exposure. Many mobile devices come equipped with blue-light reducing functions already installed. You also can purchase blue-light blocking glasses with amber lenses. Or download software that adjusts the light on your screen, depending on the time of day and your location.
  • Use light wisely. Not all light exposure is bad. Head outside into real sunlight, especially when it’s early, so you can sleep better at night. Leverage blue-light exposure appropriately during the day, if possible. It can boost your energy and readiness, increase alertness, and enhance cognitive function and mood.

Screens and devices are unavoidable. Still, they’re often an important part of daily life. Understanding their effects on sleep can help you choose how and when to make best use of technology. To learn more about blue-light exposure, visit the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) web page.

Stand up for your health!

Is 30 minutes of exercise a day enough to keep the doctor away? What you’re doing the rest of the day can affect your health and performance too. Learn more.

Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise each day improves fitness and reduces your risk of chronic disease. But what you do for the other 23½ hours also can affect your health. Even though you’re getting the minimum amount of exercise, you’re at risk of “sitting disease,” if the rest of your day is spent doing sedentary activities such as sitting or sleeping. You’re still at risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses too. But there are ways to move more throughout your day.

The sedentary lifestyle

For many, a typical day is spent sitting or sedentary—whether you’re at your desk, in the car, at the dinner table, on the couch, or in bed. All this sedentary time puts you at greater risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even cancer. The simple act of standing up has even more physiological benefits when compared to sitting. The “active couch potato” phenomenon shows that even people who are relatively fit and meet the minimum requirements for daily exercise still exhibit risk factors for metabolic syndrome and other chronic diseases as sitting time increases.

Sure, you might take the dog out for its morning walk, or maybe you did PT before work. Still, the more time you spend sitting the rest of the day, the greater your risk of disease. According to this infographic from the American Institute for Cancer Research, even those who engage in moderate amounts of exercise and physical activity are still at risk of cancer if 12 or more hours in the rest of their day is spent seated or lying down.

 

Workplace workout

Time is often a major reason that people say they don’t get enough exercise or physical activity during their day. It’s true that work can get busy, but it might just take a little creativity to turn it into a productive and physically active workday. It’s still unclear exactly how much exercise offsets or reduces your risk from sitting, and more research is needed in this area. In the meanwhile, try these tips to help reduce your sedentary time:

  • Bike or walk to work, if possible. If you don’t live close enough to bike or walk the entire commute, try walking for at least part of your travel time. For example, park further from your building. Or choose a higher level in the parking garage.
  • Take walking breaks. Walk to a coworker’s office instead of calling or emailing. Suggest a walking meeting next time you and coworkers schedule a get-together. You could walk to a cafeteria, park, or nearby bench before eating lunch. Experts suggest that even 2 minutes of walking per hour can be beneficial, so set your timer and go.
  • Take the stairs. The more you climb, the easier it will get. Walk up and down escalators too instead of riding. Avoid elevators as much as possible.
  • Take small standing breaks. When your phone rings, you could stand up to answer it and remain standing during the call. When someone visits your workspace, stand during your conversation. Or consider switching to a standing desk in your office.
  • Use an activity tracker. Wearable technology can help remind you to stay active and keep moving.

Doing what you can to increase the amount of time you spend standing, exercising, and being physically active will improve your chances of a longer and healthier life.

Senior vets: Get your game on!

The National Veterans Golden Age Games will be held from May 7–11, 2017. Senior veterans with different abilities and disabilities are encouraged to participate. Learn more.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) embraces the motto “fitness for life,” emphasizing that physical fitness is important at every age. The VA also is encouraging older veterans to participate in the 31st annual National Veterans Golden Age Games. The multi-day event, a premier senior adaptive sport rehabilitation program, is open to veterans 55 years and older who are enrolled in the VA health care system.

Over 700 vets are expected to attend the multi-sport games in Biloxi, Mississippi from May 7–11, 2017. Competitive events include air rifle, badminton, bocce, bowling, cycling, golf, pickleball (a cross between Ping-Pong and tennis), and more.

Online registration is open until March 1, 2017, and events are filling up fast. Check out this video from last year’s games. Don’t delay: Register today!

Help your partner lose weight

Learn how to help your loved one lose weight as he or she goes through the “Stages of Change.”

If you’re concerned about your partner’s weight but she or he doesn’t seem worried, there are things you can do to create a healthy eating environment at home. Pushing or pressuring your loved one won’t work and might make things worse.

Instead, consider where your partner is in the “Stages of Change.” These are the stages one goes through on his or her journey to making a behavior change. Keep in mind that he or she has to be the one to initiate the change. Read more...

Healthy shoulders, healthy warrior

Shoulder dislocation is common among service members. Learn how to keep your shoulders healthy and prevent dislocation and other injuries.

Whether you’ve already experienced a shoulder injury or avoided one, there are simple exercises you can do to maintain healthy shoulders. Shoulder dislocations are more common among military personnel than civilians. This might be explained by service members’ increased use of their upper extremities for job-related duties. The bad news is there aren’t any known avoidable risk factors associated with shoulder dislocation because it usually results from a single traumatic event. Once you’ve had a dislocation, you’re also at increased risk of experiencing another one.

The good news is healthy, strong shoulders can help reduce your risk of injury. HPRC’s RX3 Shoulder Pain section highlights exercises that are ideal for rehabilitating an injured or painful shoulder. These exercises also can help maintain healthy, uninjured shoulders! Or check out the Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System (NOFFS) Virtual Trainer strength exercises.

Make sure to see your doctor if your shoulder pain worsens or swelling occurs.

Talk about sex before tying the knot

Healthy communication about sex increases relationship satisfaction. Start these discussions early to create a common understanding about your sex life with your partner.

Honest, forthcoming conversations about sex should start early in your relationship—before you tie the knot—to establish a strong foundation. Good communication about sex in a romantic partnership can lead to greater sexual satisfaction and a more fulfilling relationship.

Physical affection and sex are important parts of developing and sustaining a romantic connection. Intimacy builds through both communication and sex—and partners who talk often about sex are more satisfied in their relationship and sex life. Talking early during your relationship, whether you already have an active sex life or you’re waiting for marriage, establishes a mutual understanding of expectations. When couples struggle with sex and intimacy, relationship satisfaction can decline and partners might opt to go their separate ways.

Physically satisfying sex requires coordination and communication between partners. Talking with your significant other about sex enables you to plan sexual encounters and explore how your partner likes sex to be initiated. As you grow as a couple, you create a shared meaning about your joint sex life. Open discussions ensure you both remain engaged and content. Disclosing your desires and fantasies with your partner and listening in return is an opportunity for connection. When a relationship develops into marriage and then possibly parenthood, a couple’s sex and sexuality are likely impacted. Having a strong foundation of healthy communication about sex from the beginning can help you persevere through relationship transitions.

Talking about sex early also enables you and your partner to establish the mutual value of sexual health and discuss any sexual health risks you might experience. Begin by being forthcoming about your sexuality and sexual history. If you have concerns about sexually transmitted diseases, know the signs, prevention and risk factors, and treatment options.

HPRC offers concrete skills to help you talk about your sex needs. Check out our FAQ section for more about sex, intimacy, and sexuality. If you’re unsure how to have these conversations with your partner, consider seeking premarital education or counseling.

Social media smarts

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Have you ever thought about how social media use impacts your well-being and productivity? Learn how to avoid the possible detriments of social media.

The average person spends almost 2 hours each day on social media, probably without considering its impact on well-being and productivity. Maintaining connectedness to friends and family, plus almost instantaneous access to information, are some of the reasons people are drawn to social media. However, for some people, social media usage can lead to increases in depression and anxiety.

Exposure to cyber-bullying and incivility can skew your view of human nature. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can grow if you have a lot of “friends” on social media but don’t have good-quality interactions with some of them, or worse, if you neglect other relationships in your life. Social media impacts your attention and productivity by distracting you and taking your attention away from the task at hand.

How can you make the best of social media?

  • Set clear boundaries on how much and when you will use social media. Look for tools to block sites during times when you need to remain present and task-focused.
  • Beware of social comparison, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy or envy. Remember that people only post what they want others to see, and comparing yourself to others can become destructive.
  • Be selective of what you see in your feed to prioritize what contributes to your life, and filter out what takes away from it. Emotions—positive and negative—are contagious. Monitor how time spent on social media impacts how you feel, and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Disconnect often if you find that you’re spending too much time engaged with your devices. Practice being more present with your friends, spouse, and family. Work toward gaining more face-to-face time with those who mean most to you.

Finally, conduct on social media can have real consequences for Warfighters. You can find general guidelines and review component-specific policies on this DoD CIO web page.

Food: Waste not, want not

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Food, Food waste, Recipes
Find out how to stretch your food budget by making use of foods you might otherwise toss out.

From the uneaten piece of toast in the morning to the leftover veggies thrown out after dinner, food waste can quickly add up. Produce often wilts and softens, and bread products dry out—the natural process of aging—before you get around to eating them. The good news is that many of these foods can be reclaimed. Keep reading for recipes and ideas that can help you use your food resources more efficiently and keep more money in your wallet! Read more...

Communicate with curiosity

You probably work and interact with people who are different from you. Approaching conversations with curiosity can improve those relationships.

People you work or interact with might differ from you in age, ethnicity, ideology, or a number of other ways. In conversations with individuals you perceive to be different from you, strive to come from a place of curiosity.

Being curious means entering conversations and relationships assuming only that you have something to learn. What’s more, people who are curious are more likely to feel better about themselves and their lives. They experience more positive emotions such as joy and surprise.

Ask yourself: Am I willing to learn about the lives of people who are different from me? Can I ask more questions? How might I benefit from learning more? Do I communicate with a willingness to learn?

Being curious requires being a good listener, which means being aware of the assumptions you bring to conversations. When you hear or read something someone said, it arrives after being screened through your own personal filter. You might draw what appear to be “logical” inferences, but these might not be accurate at all.

Before you act on your assumptions, ask open-ended, curiosity-driven questions such as:

  • What was that like?
  • How did that feel?
  • What did you think when that happened?
  • How did you end up making that decision?
  • Tell me more.

Healthy communication means listening, accepting, respecting, and negotiating differences. Note your body language, too. If your arms are crossed, muscles tense, and your face in a grimace, you’re not conveying curiosity. Approaching conversations with anger or blame or intent to criticize, threaten, or punish leads to communication breakdowns and strained relationships.

The U.S. Armed Forces celebrates diversity and encourages inclusion. When you communicate with others—whether the conversation is in person, on the phone, or over social media—be driven by curiosity. Being curious can benefit you and your improve relationships with others. In the end, you might find out you’re more alike than you are different.

Seeing differences differently

Learn how your own perception clouds accuracy to help you be more mindful and open to interpreting differences in the world.

Your human nature can prevent you from being open to diversity and differences, but you can learn to overcome this. Diversity is a strength—of this nation and its military—and navigating differences in beliefs, values, and perceptions begins with challenging your own assumptions about how you see others and the world. However, despite living in an increasingly global environment characterized by ever-broadening horizons, many still struggle with viewing differences as an asset to be explored rather than a weakness to be fixed. HPRC offers a few strategies to help raise your self-awareness and promote openness, accuracy, and flexibility. Read more...

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