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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.

Exercise intensity: Less isn’t always more

How important are high-intensity workouts?

The saying goes that “less is more,” but when it comes to exercise intensity, that might not be the case. We know that some exercise is better than no exercise, but is more-intense exercise better than moderate-intensity exercise? How hard should you push? And what are the benefits? What are the risks? With the growing popularity of high-intensity workouts, it’s important to consider both the risks and the benefits.

The role of intensity during exercise has been demonstrated. For example, the risk of death in older adults is lower for those who walk at a faster pace than for those who walk at a more leisurely pace. Short-duration high-intensity interval exercise has similar, if not better, benefits compared to long-duration low-intensity exercise. These benefits include reduced risk for chronic disease, increased oxygen uptake, and overall improved exercise performance. Since the number one barrier to exercise individuals report is not having enough time to exercise, this is important: With increased intensity, workouts can be shorter in duration, and you can still reap the benefits. You also can feel “afterburn” following high-intensity exercise, which means your body is burning calories even after you’ve completed your workout.

The good news is that exercise intensity is relative, so you can benefit from exercise at a level that is you consider high intensity, whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned athlete. Shoot for your target heart rate as a good start to gauge intensity. Not every workout needs to top out the intensity scale. In fact, doing too much too often can lead to overtraining and injury. Remember to listen to your body and incorporate rest or light days into your workout regimen.

Preparing for a deployment

A new HPRC video offers insights from Giants (and former Red Sox) baseball team’s performance psychology coach Bob Tewksbury on how military families can prepare for deployments.

In a new HPRC video, Bob Tewksbury, EdM and a mental skills coach for several major league baseball teams, discusses with Tim Herzog, EdD, how military families can effectively prepare for deployments using aspects of performance psychology. These can help service members and their families prepare mentally for challenges that can arise during deployments. The video highlights how families can benefit from getting in touch with their thoughts and feelings during this time period. According to Mr. Tewksbury, managing through a deployment requires mental toughness and the ability to focus on what you can control.

In a previous HPRC video, Mr. Tewksbury and LTC Craig Jenkins, PhD (a former SOF operational psychologist, now with the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence [USAICoE]), explore how military families can stay connected through deployments and TDYs. This new video (below) continues the conversation to help you learn more about preparing for deployments.

How you can help prevent TBI

Learn how to prevent traumatic brain injury (TBI) by implementing safety precautions.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a condition that can result from experiencing a blow or a jolt to the head, but education and proper safety precautions can prevent many of these injuries. TBI can range from mild concussion to a more serious and debilitating condition. Every year, thousands of Warfighters and veterans are diagnosed with TBI. You might expect that TBI happens mostly during deployments because of combat exposure, but almost 80% of TBIs occur in non-deployed settings, where most could be prevented.

Here are 3 tips that can help prevent TBI:

  • Put on a helmet. Whether you’re headed outside on your motorcycle, taking a springtime bicycle ride with your children, or looking to climb your next big rock, make sure everyone straps on a helmet. The helmet should be a well-maintained, approved safety device suitable for the activity and should fit properly. Helmet fact sheets are available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
  • Drive safely. Motor vehicle and motorcycle collisions account for most Warfighter TBIs. Always wear a seatbelt, and secure children in appropriate safety or booster seats. Don’t drive when you’re under the influence of drugs, alcohol, medication, or lack of sleep. Talk with your teens (and anyone else who will listen) about the dangers of distracted driving.
  • Prevent falls. Examine your environment at home and work, and identify possible safety risks that could contribute to falls and injuries. Clutter, wet or slippery surfaces, and the absence of safety features such as handrails along stairs can increase your chances of injury.

Education and an ounce of prevention are valuable to prevent injuries and TBI. To learn more about preventing, recognizing, and treating TBI, visit “A Head for the Future,” a Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center Initiative, or HPRC’s TBI resource section.

How to equip your kitchen for cooking

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn what you need to equip your kitchen for everyday cooking.

By cooking and eating at home, you’ll save money and prepare healthier meals, but it means you need the right tools. You can pick up kitchen basics from yard sales or thrift stores, family donations, or even when friends or neighbors downsize.

You can purchase all the kitchen basics for roughly $200–300, but compare that to the amount you might spend each year on eating out. Your pieces don’t need to be lavish or color-coordinated, only functional. Remember: Each cook and kitchen are different, so make your choices based on your habits, needs, and space. Read more...

The impact of sleep loss on performance

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
Sleep is a basic building block of health. Learn how not getting enough sleep is likely to compromise performance optimization and impede your total fitness.

Sleep lays the foundation for the health and well-being of service members and their families, but for many, it’s hard to get enough sleep to maintain optimal performance. Sleep loss impacts many domains of optimal functioning—whether you’re at home, at work, or on a mission. For example, trying to drive a vehicle on an empty tank of fuel isn’t a good idea, but many people routinely “operate” themselves on little or no sleep. In general, sleep deprivation can compromise your cognitive function, ability to manage emotions and handle stress, relationships with others, and physical and nutritional conditioning. Read more...

How to gauge food portion sizes

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Keeping portion sizes in check is key to managing your weight. Learn how to use your hand as a guide.

One of the most important things you can do to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is to become aware of “portion sizes.” That refers to the actual amount of food you eat at a single time. It isn’t necessarily the same as the “serving size” that you see on a food label, but especially if you’re trying to lose weight, you might want to compare. In any case, it isn’t always practical to use a measuring cup when you’re dishing up a plate of food or spreading peanut butter on your toast.

A more realistic way to gauge your portion sizes is to “eyeball” them—that is, to visually compare your food portions to a familiar frame of reference. The graphic below uses your hand as your guide to keep portion sizes in check. Of course, your hand might be larger or smaller than someone else’s, but your hand size generally equates to your body size and, as a result, your portion needs. What’s more, it’s one measuring device you’ll always have on hand.

Your handy guide to portion sizes: Your fist about equals a one-cup serving of milk or raw vegetables. Your thumb about equals one 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter or salad dressing. Your cupped palm about equals one half-cup serving of cooked fruit, vegetables, beans, or starch. Your thumbnail about equals a one-teaspoon serving of butter or margarine. And your open palm about equals one 3-ounce serving of cooked meat, fish, or poultry.

Service members and social media conduct

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn how inappropriate social media behavior can result in serious consequences for Warfighters.

A Warfighter’s online behavior can affect his or her military career, so it’s important to maintain a respectful online presence. According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), inappropriate use of social media can lead to punishable consequences. While UCMJ doesn’t include specific language about social media, keep in mind that general punitive codes might be applied to harmful conduct online.

Examples of online conduct unbecoming of service members are often made public through news and media. There’s no reasonable expectation of privacy on social media forums, where actions and behaviors can be witnessed by others—and subsequently reported for disciplinary action. Remember: Service members are never off-duty when representing the country and those who honorably served before them. Social media use comes with both benefits and dangers to consider as well. Young service members have grown up with social media as a constant presence in their lives, while older generations still might feel like they’re navigating unchartered territory. It can be difficult to recognize what constitutes a punishable offense. Posting derogatory comments about superior officers, disparaging the president and other government officials, and commenting inappropriately with offensive, discriminatory, or racist language are all punishable offenses.

Current events have inspired many to share their views and engage in discussions about what matters to them. The guiding principle for appropriate behavior should be rooted in the honor and respect deserved by the uniform. Warfighters represent the best our country has to offer, and their online conduct and etiquette always should reflect high standards.

Visit the DoD Social Media Hub for updated policies and links to social media portals for each service branch. And learn more about behavior that’s punishable by UCMJ:

 

Posted 13 March 2017

How to plan your family meetings

Family meetings can build cohesion and improve communication with your loved ones. Learn how to get started!

Family meetings help streamline communication and increase closeness with your loved ones. Use these times to get together, discuss important topics, and listen to each other. These meetings can be helpful if you need to talk about an upcoming problem or situation your family is facing. Your family also can discuss upcoming events, decide on any preventative actions you’ll take, and agree on how you’ll manage things. In addition, the meetings can clear up confusion and ensure everyone understands expectations and action plans.

During family meetings, you might talk about house rules, upcoming family vacations, or changes to your family structure. Or you might settle ongoing disputes between siblings. Invite all family members to participate and gently encourage them to come, but don’t demand attendance. Establish a productive meeting space and consider the following tips to make sure your family meetings are effective.

  • Set a specific time and location. The time should work for everyone, and the location should be convenient and conducive to good conversations.
  • Establish an agenda. Ask family members in advance what they’d like to cover during the meeting. As you identify topics for discussion, remember your agenda will drive the length of your meeting. Hold shorter meetings—about 10–20 minutes—when younger kids are present too.
  • Get everyone involved. All members should take on a role, even little kids. Decide who will be the leader, note taker, and timekeeper. Rotate responsibilities at each meeting.
  • Take turns talking and listening. Set some guidelines for how the meeting will run, including how everyone will communicate. Speak one at a time, use “I” statements, and practice good listening skills.
  • Encourage participation. Ask for everyone’s opinions and ideas when problem-solving or brainstorming. Enabling all family members’ voices to be heard helps build cohesion in your family unit.
  • Write down your plan of action. Once your family decides how you’ll work towards achieving your joint goal, write things down and post the information where everyone can see it.

Family meetings are successful when kids learn effective problem-solving skills and everyone in the family feels heard. Get your loved ones together for your first family meeting this week!

Posted 13 March 2017

Create a productive space for family meetings

Filed under: Communication, Family
Optimize your family meeting time by creating a positive space to share thoughts, feelings, and concerns.

Family meetings are important for maintaining communication and cohesive relationships with your loved ones. The environment in which you hold these meetings is just as important as what you talk about. Creating a safe, comfortable, and productive space will help your family get the most out of your meeting times. Just like office meetings, everyone should pay attention, stay involved, feel included, and be respectful too. Before you call your next family meeting, consider these tips to set up a productive meeting space.

  • Minimize distractions and ban devices. While some people think they’re good at multitasking, research suggests otherwise. So, turn the TV and other devices off. That includes phones, tablets, and video games. This will help ensure that everyone is focused on the issues at hand.
  • Set a comfortable room temperature. A room that’s too hot or too cold can be a distraction. And it can take away from the focus of your meeting.
  • Make sure everyone has eaten. It’s difficult to focus when your stomach is growling. Hold family meetings after mealtimes or eat snacks beforehand, so your loved ones don’t get hungry when it’s time to talk.
  • Set up effective seating arrangements. Make sure that everyone has “a seat at the table.” Everyone should be visible—not sitting off in a corner or behind other family members. This will help ensure that people are engaged and involved in your conversations.

It might take a few tries to figure out the best environment for your family meetings. Still, be flexible and open to trying new things to get the most out of your time together.

OPSS has moved!

HPRC Fitness Arena: Dietary Supplements

HPRC’s dietary supplement information has moved to the new Operation Supplement Safety website. Check out OPSS.org now!

Posted 08 March 2017

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