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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.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment

Practice safe sun

Skin cancer rates have reached epidemic proportions. Stay safe this summer whether you are walking the dog, mountain climbing, or training for the next PRT.

More than two million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year, and the number is growing. Skin cancer is a major public health issue, and with proper precautions you can decrease your risk considerably. Hopefully this information on sun safety will help you, whether you are a Warfighter or dependent, stay safe during all outdoor activities!

Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) has been identified as the most important risk factor for both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Exposure to UVR weakens the skin’s elasticity and can result in sagging cheeks, deeper facial wrinkles, skin discoloration, burn, skin aging, photosensitivity, and cancer. Taking steps to safeguard yourself is crucial, especially when participating in outdoor activities or exercising.

Sweating increases the skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s rays, magnifying the risk of sunburn and skin damage. Athletes who practice outdoor sports have been found to be at increased risk for skin cancer. Remember—the weather does not have to be sunny and hot for you to get sun damage. Ultraviolet rays penetrate clouds, exposing you to 80% of the UVR. Even skiers and mountain climbers are at risk for sun exposure and skin cancer because of the stronger UVR at altitude.

Follow these precautions from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) whether training for the PRT, patrolling, road marching, or participating in a summer league softball game:

Avoid burning. Avoid sun tanning. Also, try to avoid sun exposure during midday (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) when the rays are the strongest.

Seek shade. When possible, especially during midday, seek shade under a tree or tent.

Cover up. Wear protective clothing, including hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants when going outdoors. Keep in mind protection decreases when clothes are wet.

Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand. Ultraviolet rays can reflect off of these surfaces, which can increase your chance of sun exposure and skin damage.

Apply sunscreen. Use water-resistant sunscreen and apply 15-30 minutes prior to sun exposure to allow for it to absorb. Also, reapply after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. Be sure to take a look at the new FDA regulations regarding sunscreens and their effectiveness.

Wear sunglasses. Protect your eyes when working, driving, participating in sports, taking a walk, or running an errand. Solar ultraviolet B radiation can cause an increased risk of cataracts and cancer of the skin around the eye without proper cover.

It’s always important to remember hydration when engaging in outdoor activities as well! HPRC has useful tips on hydration and the consumption of sports drinks and caffeine during exercise in the heat.

Remembering on Memorial Day

Filed under: Memorial Day
Memorial Day is not only a time to remember those who have served but to remember how to serve those who do.

Today is Memorial Day. Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” after the Civil War. In 1882, Decoration Day became widely known as Memorial Day, and after WWII it became a day to remember all our fallen heroes, not just those from the Civil War. In 1967, Congress passed the law making it an official holiday to be celebrated on May 30, subsequently changed to the last Monday of May. We at HPRC extend our greatest appreciation to those who have perished for our nation and offer our sincere sympathy for the families left behind. There are many ways people choose to remember those who gave their lives as a supreme sacrifice to our country and its ideals. HPRC is dedicated to providing our Warfighters and their families the information they need to build resilience to prevent injury and illness and carry out their missions as safely and effectively as possible. Our desire is to reduce the level of sacrifice our warriors have to make as they fulfill their future missions for us and for our nation.

Colds versus allergies

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Can you tell the difference between a contagious cold and the irritating allergies that affect some people in the spring?

Have you been experiencing symptoms such as sneezing; a runny nose; watery and/or itchy eyes, and fatigue? Colds and allergies both can make you feel miserable and affect your performance, but it can be hard sometimes to tell which is which. The causes of each are distinctly different: Colds are contagious, and they are caused by viruses. But allergies are due to sensitivity to allergens such as seasonal pollen, and they’re not contagious. To prevent colds, hand washing is key, along with hygiene etiquette such as covering your mouth or nose when you cough or sneeze. To avert allergies, on the other hand, try to avoid the allergens that cause your symptoms. Common allergens, especially in the spring, include grass and tree pollen. Year-round allergens include mold, animal dander, and dust mites. It can be a challenge to exercise and enjoy the outdoors if you have allergies, but it’s not impossible. Here are some tips to help you manage your allergies:

  • Know and avoid your allergy triggers. If you’re not sure what you might be allergic to, getting tests done by a specialist could help you narrow it down. A doctor might also suggest an antihistamine or inhaler to help prevent flare-ups.
  • Check the air quality in your area every day. If the pollen count is high, avoid spending too much time outside, mowing the grass, or exercising outdoors.
  • Shower after being outside. This can help reduce symptoms by washing pollen off your, skin, hair, and eyelashes.
  • If you must be outside during high pollen/pollutant times, wear a cover (such as a mask or bandana) over your mouth and nose to keep particles out of your airways.
  • Rinse out your nose with a saline spray to help wash away allergens after being outside.

What is “Total Force Fitness”?

Do you know what “Total Force Fitness” is? It’s a Department of Defense model for building and maintaining health, wellness, and resilience.

Have you heard of Total Force Fitness, but you aren’t sure what it is? It’s a framework for building and maintaining health, readiness, and performance in the Department of Defense. It views health, wellness, and resilience as a holistic concept that recognizes “total fitness” as a “state in which the individual, family and organization can sustain optimal well-being and performance under all conditions”—a connection between mind, body, spirit, and family/social relationships. Total fitness shifts the perspective from treatment to wellness and focuses on prevention and strengths.

The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury created a slide presentation for units and groups on Total Force Fitness: A Brief Overview that describes what TFF is, its core components, and each of its eight “domains” (behavioral, social, physical, environmental, medical and dental, spiritual, nutritional, and psychological). For more in-depth reading, check out the original Military Medicine Supplement that started it all, including a scholarly chapter for each domain.

The bright and dark sides of blue light

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Rest, Sleep, Technology
The “blue light” emitted from electronic devices and energy-efficient light bulbs affects your energy level, for better and for worse.

If you’ve ever thought you noticed a boost in energy while using your electronic gadgets, it may not just be in your head. A recent study suggests that blue light—the type that’s emitted from all electronic devices and energy-efficient light bulbs—can give you an energy boost equal to or better than two cups of coffee. The same study makes a connection between blue light and enhanced sports performance. Sounds great, right? But what if sleep is the missing piece of your performance puzzle?

While you might welcome an energy boost during the day, using electronic gadgets at night can be detrimental to your sleep health, disrupting your natural circadian rhythm by suppressing the secretion of melatonin, a powerful sleep hormone. Follow these tips to manage your exposure to blue light:

  • Take advantage of electronic devices during the day to boost your attention, reaction times, and mood.
  • Shut off all electronic devices at night at least two hours before you go to bed.
  • Consider wearing blue-blocking glasses on those nights when you can’t avoid blue light.
  • Use dim, red lights if you like having a nightlight. Red light has less impact on your melatonin levels. (Parents also take note for the nightlight in your child’s bedroom.)

One more tip about light: During the day, get plenty of bright daylight. Not only will it make you feel better during the day, it will also help you sleep at night.

Too loud for you to hear?

There are some tips you can use to prevent exposure to hazardous noise levels recreationally and occupationally.

A staggering number of Americans (approximately 36 million) have hearing loss, and one-third of those probably could have been prevented. Hearing loss continues to be a safety hazard for Warfighters at home and in the field. So how do we combat this not-so-silent epidemic?  Here are a few tips to help you protect your hearing.

  • Wear a hearing protective device (HPD). HPDs should be worn for noise levels at or above 85dB. Not sure what 85dB really means? Check out this guide to occupational noise levels.  Also check out “How Loud is Too Loud?,” a graphic designed to inform Warfighters about how and when to choose the proper HPD for their jobs.
  • Learn how to wear your HPD correctly. Even if you have the correct protection, it may not be effective if you’re not wearing it correctly.
  • Always have disposable HPDs handy. Disposable HPDs are lightweight and easily portable. Make them a part of your everyday gear.

For more information about how to protect yourself against or to seek help for hearing loss check out the DoD Hearing Center of Excellence website or make an appointment with your local hearing loss treatment center.

Antibacterial soaps – beneficial or not?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Hygiene, Risks
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to revise their guidelines for the use and production of antibacterial soaps

The word “antibacterial” is all too familiar to 21st-century consumers. Soaps and cleaning products that tout “antibacterial” or “kills germs” in large print seem to be everywhere. So it may surprise you to learn that recent studies suggest the use of antibacterial soaps may not be as beneficial as once thought. Research now shows that overuse of these soaps contributes to antibiotic resistance, which makes bacteria stronger and less responsive to antibiotic treatment—a potentially major problem in combat zones and hospitals. In addition, recent animal studies have shown that triclosan, the most common active ingredient in antibacterial soaps, may alter the way hormones work in the body. While these soaps are sometimes necessary in hospital settings, scientists caution against using them in our everyday lives.

FDA will now require that over-the-counter antibacterial soaps must prove that their benefit to a consumer’s health is greater than the current risk for harm to the user and the environment. Manufacturers of over-the-counter antibacterial soaps will be given until December 16, 2014, to provide this evidence or FDA will ban their products.

The ban will not affect hand sanitizers and soaps used in hospital settings. To learn more about the proposed ban of antibacterial soaps, read the FDA consumer update.

A holistic approach to performance

Check out the customizable “One Shot One Kill” (OSOK) performance enhancement program to jumpstart your performance.

Wanting some holistic strategies to enhance your performance? Check out the “One Shot One Kill (OSOK) Performance Enhancement Program” that shows Warfighters how to set up and manage their own performance-enhancement system. OSOK is designed not only to enhance performance but also to jumpstart Warfighter resilience. It builds on the skills that Warfighters already possess and then teaches new ones as needed.

There are two ways you can use OSOK: as an individual through “OSOK Solo” and as a unit/group through “OSOK-IP Unit.” Both highlight “10 Rules of Engagement” and provide seven core modules: Controlled Response, Mind Tactics, Performance-Based Nutrition, Primal Fitness, Purpose, Code, and Recharge. OSOK also provides self-assessment forms so you can track your progress over time.

For other performance-enhancement programs and information about holistic (total) fitness, check out HPRC’s Total Force Fitness domain.

Sub terra firma

Combat training is moving underground. New tactics—and, potentially, new doctrine—are being developed to help troops perform in underground environments where enemies could hide.

The U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group has been training joint forces in some unusual places—underground venues such as tunnels, caves, and sewers. As battlefields become more urban and enemies move underground, subterranean environments pose unique operational challenges. Although the Army does not currently have an official field manual for underground combat, this new tactical training has developed units’ ability to perform in these environments. Combat training centers are starting to integrate these kinds of complex environments into their facilities, and the Army is urging home-station training to “get creative” and use simple techniques to simulate their own underground environments. Something as simple as training in a dark room with obstacles can simulate underground areas. Israeli Defense Forces have also had success with this type of training. Being able to adapt and perform in challenging environments is a vital part of warrior resilience.

The foundations of Total Force Fitness

Get back to basics with the foundations of Total Force Fitness: health, resilience, and performance optimization. What are they and how do they go together?

Have you heard the terms “resilience” and “Total Force Fitness,” but you’re not quite sure what they mean or where they fit into the health and performance picture? Read on.

Your health is the foundation. The 2010 article "Why Total Force Fitness?" states, “nothing works without health.” Health is not just physical and not just something to worry about when you’re sick. Health is a combination of physical, mental, spiritual, and social well-being and includes practices that promote wellness in addition to those that help you recover from sickness or injury.

Resilience is next. Resilience is the ability to bounce back—or even better, forward—and thrive after experiencing hardship. It is not the ability to completely withstand hardship but rather the ability to come back from it and grow stronger through the experience.

Next is human performance optimization (HPO). Unlike resilience, which typically requires the experience of hardship, HPO involves performing at your best for whatever goal or mission you have (whether that is your PT test, a combat mission, or raising children). It goes beyond simply resisting challenges; it means functioning at a new optimal level to face new challenges.

Health, resilience, and optimal performance are the foundations of Total Force Fitness, which is defined in the “Physical Fitness” chapter of “Total Force Fitness for the 21st Century” (see link above) as a “state in which the individual, family, and organization can sustain optimal well-being and performance under all conditions.” Being totally fit requires a holistic approach—that is, an approach that doesn’t focus on just one aspect alone such as nutrition or physical fitness, but on multiple domains of fitness. It means attending to your mind (including psychological, behavioral, spiritual, and social components) and your body (including physical, nutritional, medical and environmental components). In order to achieve Total Force Fitness, these factors come together to enhance your resilience and/or performance.

This is where HPRC can help you on your quest for total fitness. By visiting each of our domains—Physical Fitness, Environments, Nutrition, Dietary Supplements, Family & Relationships, and Mind Tactics—you can get evidence-based information on a variety of holistic topics to help you achieve and sustain total fitness. But remember that total fitness is a life-long process that will ebb and flow. And it isn’t just about you; your loved ones are an important piece of the picture, too.

To learn more, check out HPRC’s "What is 'Total Force Fitness'?" and for in-depth information, visit the Total Force Fitness Articles section of HPRC’s website.

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