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
Most people associate dehydration with hot weather. Here’s news: You can experience dehydration in cold weather too. Being active outside in cold weather for less than two hours doesn’t usually present a problem. But for long-term exposure such as a field deployment, which can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks, the combination of heavy clothing and high-intensity exercise can lead to increased sweating and the possibility of dehydration. You may not feel as thirsty in cold weather as in other climates, because your body chemistry impairs your brain’s ability to tell you when to hydrate. Cold weather also has the effect of moving body fluids from your extremities to your core, causing increased urine output and adding to dehydration.
The bottom line: When in cold climates, don’t rely on thirst to be an indicator of hydration. Drink often, before you’re thirsty. Water and sports drinks are the best fluids to maintain hydration, even in cold weather conditions. When you’re in a situation where you need to monitor your hydration level keep in mind that carbonated and caffeinated beverages (including energy drinks) have a dehydrating effect since they increase urine flow. Also avoid alcohol consumption in cold weather. It gives a temporary feeling of warmth but interferes with the body’s ability to retain heat since shivering, the normal response to maintain body temperature, is delayed.
Sometimes it’s not easy to hydrate as much as you need, especially when on a mission. One way to measure your hydration status is to monitor the color and volume of your urine. (Snow makes a good test spot.) Dark, scanty urine is an indication of dehydration. Ideally, urine should be light yellow to clear. Enjoy getting some exercise in the cold weather, but be sure to keep your water bottle in tow.
Fort Drum recently opened a “Mountain Functional Fitness Facility.” In keeping with the goal of overall combat fitness, the facility’s purpose is to help soldiers become strong and agile for combat while deployed in both cold conditions and rough terrain such as rugged mountainous environments.
“Functional fitness” focuses on developing specific muscle movements and overall athleticism rather than building up specific muscles. This new center features state-of-the-art equipment and the mission of helping soldiers become conditioned to operate in realistic situations where both strength and agility training are mission critical. Check out this report in Business Insider for additional photos.
This past July, the Military Health System focused on promoting Total Force Fitness, giving priority to seven top areas: tobacco-free living, drug-abuse prevention, healthy eating, active living, injury-free and violence-free living, reproductive and sexual health, and mental and emotional well-being. They suggest managing your own health and wellness by making healthy choices between doctor’s visits. For inspirations and ideas that can help, check out HPRC’s ways to:
- make healthy food decisions for yourself, and your family;
- become tobacco-free and/or reducing substance use;
- be active for yourself, your family; and
- enhance your mental and emotional health.
Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has now been launched to answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Visit the OPSS section of HPRC’s website now to learn more!
Before the end of October of 2012, the Army will issue to all soldiers fire-resistant ACUs that have been factory treated with an EPA-approved insect repellent called permethrin. This method may be a cleaner and safer way of repelling insects compared to DEET, another long-lasting insect repellent. The Army has been using permethrin for nearly 20 years in the form of liquid or spray, and by treating ACUs, soldiers will experience better, longer-lasting protection against ticks, fleas, mosquitos, and other insects that carry diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus, and Lyme. Other advantages include not having to worry about remembering to apply insect repellant and whether you’re applying it correctly. Uniforms treated with permethrin have been used by the Marine Corps since 2007 and have been used in some Iraq and Afghanistan operations but until now have not been available to all soldiers. The new ACUs will be good for about 50 launderings, but it is important to note that the uniforms should be washed separately from other clothing. There will be a permethrin-free ACU available for those with medical conditions, including pregnant women, who should not wear the treated uniforms. For more information check out these FAQs or contact the Armed Forces Pest Management Board.
Body armor, in addition to necessary equipment and supplies, well exceeds the recommended carrying maximum of 50 pounds. The DoD was asked by Congress to conduct a research project to explore the possibility of lightening body armor without sacrificing protection. Currently, the research shows it does not seem possible to make body armor out of a lighter material while still adequately protecting the individual. However, leaders are taking a more preventative approach to reducing injuries on the battlefield. These include changes in pre-deployment training, as well as an increased number of deployed physical and occupational therapists and improvements in forward-deployed care centers.
Why has the F-22 Raptor been depriving its pilots of oxygen for the last 12 years? Air Force officials recently told a House subcommittee hearing (a complete video of the two-hour hearing is also available) that they don’t know what’s behind the dizziness, confusion, blackouts, memory loss, fatigue, and eventually chronic cough (“Raptor cough”) that pilots experience while flying the stealth jets. After more than a dozen incidents between 2000 and 2011—and one fatal crash—where pilots were being choked by the plane, the Air Force’s entire F-22 fleet was grounded in May 2011.
Investigations ruled out low blood sugar and dehydration as possible causes of the symptoms and eventually concluded that the problem was an overinflated pressure vest that restricted breathing.
In response, a team of NASA engineers and Navy divers developed a new-and-improved pressure suit and back-up oxygen systems and removed a faulty charcoal air filter. These measures seem to have alleviated the problems—a dozen F-22s recently were deployed to Japan without incident. Now restrictions are being lifted, although the jets and their pilots are being closely monitored. Pilots currently must operate under altitude ceilings so that they don’t need to use the flight vests, and they must also stay close to emergency landing sites. Experts and scientists continue to investigate the primary cause of these incidents as well as improve safety and back-up systems.
Developing technology in order to save the lives of those who serve is vitally important. To that end, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) recently received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Army to develop monitoring sensors that will be able to detect blood loss early, which may help save lives on the battlefield. WPI will partner with the University of Massachusetts Medical School to create wireless sensors that can be worn on the body to detect blood loss, body movement, and posture. They will also be working to combine that information with smartphone technology that medics can use as a handheld diagnostic device in rapid-response situations.
"Animated growth, like trees, never proceeds in straight lines. Trees are not like the walls of a house, they adjust to the living conditions of wind, sun, soil, and rain." - Ruth Cohn, noted psychotherapist
Whether it is environmental challenges (heat, cold, altitude) or psychological pressure, adjusting your performance strategies to your surroundings is the only way to ensure success. There will be situations that may seem impossible to overcome, but that is when you must dig deep and use whatever resources you have available. Enhance your performance by challenging yourself at every opportunity. Visit HPRC’s Environment and Mind Tactics sections to learn strategies on how to best adapt to different situations.
Face paint has been used for many decades to blend the appearance of Warfighters’ exposed skin into their environments and protect them from the enemy. The American Chemical Society is taking a new approach to the traditional camouflage face paint by making it from a material that also can provide some protection from the heat wave of roadside bombs, IEDs, and other explosions on the battlefield. Thermal blasts last only a few seconds, but can cook the face, hands, and other exposed skin. The new face paint will protect exposed skin against temperatures reaching around 600 degrees Fahrenheit, for up to 60 seconds. The paint even incorporates the insect repellent DEET in a form that will not catch fire.
This new face paint is still in the testing stages, but already there are plans for a colorless form for use by men and women in other occupations—such as firefighters and other emergency responders—who are at risk of extreme heat exposure.
Heat illness is a hot topic for the military. Did you know there is a spectrum of conditions that fall under the term “heat illness,” some more severe than others? HPRC has great resources on how to prepare for exposure to hot environments and how to prevent heat illness. Read HPRC’s Answer to “What IS heat illness?” for more about what heat illness is and how to identify the signs that you might be developing more serious conditions.