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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.

Fit kids for life

September is National Childhood Obesity Month. Learn how to help your kids get active and stay healthy.

There’s an obesity epidemic in this country, and it’s not just affecting adults. Childhood obesity impacts more than 23 million children and teenagers in the U.S., putting them at risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol.

More recently, the U.S. military has taken action because it considers childhood obesity a threat to our national security. Many young adults aren’t fit to fight. Now’s the time to instill healthy exercise habits in your kids to help them become healthy adults.

Regular exercise can build strong muscles and bones and promote overall health. It’s especially important that children exercise and learn healthy habits early on. Exercise also can boost kids’ self-esteem, improve sleep, and stimulate learning in school.

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, including:

  • Aerobic exercise for most of the 60 minutes. On most days, this can include either vigorous-intensity activities (such as running, swimming, and jumping rope) or moderate-intensity activities (such as walking or skateboarding). Make sure to include some vigorous-intensity exercise at least 3 days each week. Check out Let’s Move! for ideas on how to get active as a family.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities. These can include playing tug-of-war, exercising with resistance bands, or climbing on playground equipment. Strengthening exercises should be done at least 3 times a week.
  • Bone-strengthening (impact) activities. These can include running, jumping rope, basketball, tennis, and hopscotch. Impact activities, which strengthen bones and promote healthy growth, also should be done at least 3 times a week.

Learn more about DoD's efforts to help keep your kids active and healthy. Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page for resources and tips to help raise awareness about National Childhood Obesity Month too. And visit HPRC’s Staying Active section for ideas on how to boost your family’s fitness.

Boost your fitness with yoga!

Try these yoga routines to calm, balance, and challenge your mind and body!

Adding yoga to your fitness routine can build strength and endurance, increase focus, and improve your well-being. What’s more, yoga can help reduce stress and relieve pain from injury or illness. No matter what motivates your health or performance goals, you can benefit from HPRC’s video series on yoga sequences that target different parts of your body.

  • Calming Yoga. This exercise helps activate the relaxation response in your mind and body by combining gentle yoga poses, breathing, and mindful awareness.
  • Balance Yoga. This routine focuses on breathing to help energy flow evenly throughout your body.
  • Challenge Yoga. This activity can help strengthen your core, increase flexibility, and relieve stress through a number of poses.
  • Challenge Yoga with Weights. This sequence combines light weights with challenging poses to reduce stress and increase muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility.

Whether you’re a beginner or expert, here are some tips for effective yoga practice:

  • Go slow. If you’re practicing in the morning, take your time and ease into the positions because your body might need to warm up at first.
  • Listen to your body. If you feel pain or “overstretching,” stop because you’ve reached your “full expression.” If you’re having a hard time or breathing problems, move into Corpse Pose: Lie flat on your back with your hands facing upwards. Do this until you feel better.
  • Watch and learn. If you’re a beginner practicing alone, it might be helpful to go through the videos first and become familiar with the various moves.

Ask your healthcare provider about the different forms of yoga, so you can choose what’s right for you. This is especially important for those with heart conditions or women who are pregnant.

Visit HPRC’s Mind-Body Apps, Tools, and Videos page to check out the Yoga Series videos and learn other mind-body techniques too.

World Suicide Prevention Day

World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10. Know what to say and how to help a suicidal family member, friend, or colleague.

Suicide is preventable if you know the warning signs, what to say, and who to contact for help. This is why this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day theme is “Connect, Communicate, Care.” Over 800,000 people die by suicide worldwide each year. Someone you know might be in crisis if he or she:

  • Directly expresses wanting to die.
  • Talks about feeling hopeless or trapped, having no reason to live, or being a burden to others.
  • Isolates himself or herself and withdraws from relationships.
  • Experiences sleep problems, mood and behavior swings, anxiety, frustration, or recklessness.

If you suspect someone is suicidal, take action by addressing your concerns directly, while also staying calm and empathetic. Try saying:

  • “I noticed you’ve mentioned a few times how hopeless you feel. Let’s talk more about that.”
  • “You don’t seem as happy or engaged as you used to be. And you spend most of your time alone in your room. This has me concerned.”
  • “Are you thinking of ending your life?”
  • “Do you have thoughts of hurting yourself?”
  • “I’m worried because I care so much about you and want you to know help is available. Let’s figure this out together.”

While someone’s pain might not always be obvious, knowing the signs and feeling confident you can find the words to address your concerns is essential. If you’re a parent worried about your child’s or teen’s suicidal thoughts or behaviors, know what to look for. And if your children were exposed to a family member’s suicide attempt, talk with them about it.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website offers good information and helpful resources. Also, Military OneSource offers support and services to improve your friend, colleague, or loved one’s mental health and well-being. If you feel someone is experiencing a potentially life-threatening problem, contact the Military Crisis Line online or call 800-273-8255 and press “1,” or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or by phone at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) also has a 24/7 Outreach Center featuring a hotline, email, chat, and phone number. And visit HPRC’s Suicide Prevention page. In an emergency, please dial 911.

“Winterize” your fruits and veggies

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Freezing fruits and vegetables can help you save money, have fun in the kitchen, and enjoy your summertime favorites during winter. Read on for some super-simple tips.

Freezing your favorite summertime fruits and vegetables enables you to enjoy them all winter long. It’s a popular preservation method because it’s fast and ensures your foods taste flavorful while retaining nutrients. And you can cut food costs by buying your produce at roadside stands or farmers’ markets because their offerings are often cheaper.

Check out the National Center for Food Preservation’s page to learn more and/or try your hand at other preservation methods, including pickling, drying, and canning. HPRC offers some tips to help you start “putting food by” or preserving your favorites. Read more...

NEW caffeine & performance infographic

If you use caffeine for an extra boost, check out the new OPSS infographic to learn how to use it safely and effectively.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has a new infographic about caffeine and performance. Caffeine, which is a stimulant, is found in various beverages, dietary supplements, and even your ration items. While it can help boost your mental and physical performance, it’s important to use it strategically. Otherwise, you could experience some unwanted side effects. So if you choose to use caffeine, check out our new infographic with information about how and when to use it and where you’ll find it. And for more information about caffeine, please visit the OPSS FAQs about caffeine and hidden sources of caffeine.

Caffeine Infographic updated 082516

Set and attain team goals

Warfighters know it’s important that their units/groups stick together. Find out how cooperating with others and setting team goals help achieve team success.

Team goals matter—whether you’re serving your unit, making decisions as a family, or coaching sports. There are a lot of factors that can lead to your group’s success or failure too. Your group’s cohesiveness—or ability to remain united while pursuing your objectives—can make all the difference as your team works to achieve its goals.

Cohesiveness has other advantages too: Those who get along socially or work well together benefit from improved job satisfaction and overall well-being. Here are some tips to help build and maintain team/unit cohesion.

  • When you’re in charge, be sure to set clear, achievable goals for the whole group. And encourage teammates to set their own goals too.
  • Communicate clearly: Give clear expectations for roles, performance, and deadlines—and offer praise.
  • Minimize conflict and build trust by showing interest and concern for each other.
  • Value connections within the team as well as between units and organizations.
  • Focus on your group’s strengths, not just its problems and challenges.
  • Build resilience at individual and group levels.

Sometimes personal goals interfere with the group’s success, causing its performance to suffer. When individuals set goals that contribute to the group’s overall purpose, bigger successes follow. Make sure your personal goals fit into the “bigger picture” of your team’s success.

Setting team goals is even more important for leaders. Teammates often take cues from their leader, whether he or she is a commanding officer, parent, or coach. Effective leaders—especially those who focus on the group’s mission—help their groups define clear aims and set important personal goals as well.

Set your own goals to help your team succeed. And when you’re in charge, share your “big picture” goals with the group! 

Ready, Set, Go for Green®

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Go For Green®
Learn how Go for Green® can put the bounce back in your step!

Feeling low in energy? Underperforming at work, in the gym, or at home? What you’re eating might be slowing you down. Use Go for Green® (G4G) to make nutritious choices that fuel your body and mind, optimizing your energy and performance. Newly updated, DoD’s G4G program promotes nutritious foods and beverages to boost your fitness, strength, and health.

G4G labels foods and beverages with a stoplight system—Green, Yellow, and Red—to identify your best choices for peak performance. Foods are labeled with Low, Moderate, or High sodium symbols to point out sodium content too. Remember: Use these tips to build your energy-boosting plate!

  • Aim to fill half your plate with Green-coded foods. You can find healthy, Green-coded choices in every food group: grains, fats, proteins, fruits and vegetables, and dairy.
  • Eat consistently to keep your energy up. For best results, include Green-coded foods and drinks with every meal and snack—and stick to a schedule when possible.
  • Make nutrient-rich foods the easy choice at home and work. You’re more likely to eat what’s easily available, so choose foods that make you want to get up and go. Stock your fridge with Green-coded items, fill your kitchen cabinets with minimally processed foods, and keep a stash of healthy snacks in your desk drawer.

Learn more by visiting the G4G website section. Make sure to like G4G on Facebook! Connect with the G4G team, share your stories, and post pictures showing how you “Go for Green.”

Your child and the HPV vaccine

Are you considering the HPV vaccine for your child? Learn how it helps prevent cervical cancer and other illnesses.

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can effectively prevent some sexually-transmitted infections that cause genital warts and certain cancers in men and women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine HPV vaccinations for kids ages 11–12, but those as young as 9 also can be vaccinated. The vaccine is most effective for those who receive the full 3-dose series.

HPV, the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the U.S., can develop into certain forms of cancer. It’s estimated there are 79 million HPV-infected individuals and another 14 million new HPV infections annually. In most cases, the symptom-free virus goes away on its own. However, for unknown reasons, HPV infection can persist, causing cervical cancer and other vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancers. It’s also linked to cancers of the tonsils and tongue.

In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine that protects against the 4 most harmful strains of HPV. Studies show the HPV vaccine works. It prevents genital warts, some precancers, and cervical and other cancers associated with these harmful strains. Mandatory HPV-cancer prevention vaccination programs have resulted in lower rates of HPV-related diseases and cancers in other countries too. 

While many teens and adults are open to their health care providers’ recommendations for getting vaccinated, low immunization rates still exist. As more kids and adults get vaccinated, the rate of HPV-related cancers is expected to drop. Since the HPV vaccine is relatively new, it’s also recommended that females (ages 13–26) and males (ages 13–21) who haven’t been previously vaccinated “catch up” and get protected.

Since TriCare coverage includes most types of the HPV vaccine, contact your kids’ health care provider (or your own, if you’re considering getting vaccinated) to discuss options. For more information, read the CDC’s recommendations for vaccinating your teen or pre-teen. And visit the National Cancer Institute’s HPV Vaccines page.

Best time to exercise

Is there an ideal time of day for exercise?

The best time of day to exercise is the time when you can maintain a consistent exercise routine—not necessarily the same time for everyone. You also might experience better training adaptations when you exercise consistently at a regular time. For example, if you work out at noon every day, your body will adapt to perform at its best at noon.

Above all, exercise should be enjoyable. After all, if you don’t enjoy it, you’re less likely to keep up with it. So here are a few things to keep in mind about making exercise fit into your schedule.

Morning. It might be easiest to maintain a consistent exercise regimen by starting your day with a workout. Other things that come up during the day can affect your plans to work out later in the day, and motivation often fades as the day progresses. However, since your body and muscle temperatures are lower in the morning, it’s especially important in the morning to warm up properly before exercise.

Afternoon. Optimal adaptations to weight training seem to occur in late afternoon. Levels of hormones such as testosterone (important for muscle growth in men and women) and cortisol (important for regulating metabolism and controlling blood pressure) seem to be at optimal ratio later in the day. For some people—because hormone levels vary from person to person—lifting later also might be more beneficial because their testosterone can respond better to resistance exercises. 

Evening. The biggest caveat about exercising in the evening is how it will affect your sleep. Everyone is a little different. Some people can exercise right before bed and have no trouble sleeping. For others, it can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. There are lots of factors that can affect your sleep. Experiment to see what works for you.

Remember that other factors such as your work schedule, fitness goals, current diet, and sleep habits also affect your workout routine and physical performance. But whether at the end of the day (or in the morning or afternoon), a consistent exercise routine is the best routine.

Is procrastinating worth the wait?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Do you tend to procrastinate? Learn why you do it and how to stop it—today!

If you’re aware that you tend to procrastinate, you probably already know it’s a good idea to take care of tasks right away rather than wait, but somehow you keep “putting things off.” Still, procrastinating is attractive for many reasons.

  • You can’t find the “right place” to start. If so, start anywhere because somewhere is better than nowhere.
  • Perfectionism is holding you back. This is because you’re waiting to no longer feel anxious about the outcome.
  • Sustained effort can be hard! Remember: Waiting can make things even harder.
  • It’s difficult to get started unless you feel pressured to finish on time. But there are other ways to get “amped up” enough to start performing.
  • You think you’ll have more time “later.” But an “ideal time” seldom arrives. If you play these mind games with yourself, check out the mind-body ABCs.
  • You feel overwhelmed by your specific task. Can you look at this “threat” as more of a “challenge” instead? Doing so can help you feel excited rather than anxious.

Does procrastinating help—or hurt—your efforts to get things done? Ignoring problems typically makes things worse. So, step up and tackle your to-do list. Use some of the tips laid out here, and consider the obstacles to engaging a new approach. Then develop action plans to overcome those obstacles. It’s helpful to use all of these strategies, but remember that even using some strategies can be useful too. 

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