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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

Times and rhythms of sleep

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Your environment affects your sleep pattern—when you change time zones, make sure you adjust to get your best sleep at key times.

Our bodies know when to sleep thanks to “circadian rhythms,” which are regulated by our brains on a 24-hour cycle. Circadian rhythms are linked to core body temperature, so ideally you should always sleep between 0300 and 0500, when your core body temperature is lowest and your performance abilities are at their lowest. Keep in mind that your individual circadian schedule is based on where you are and takes cue from environmental factors such as the sun and from social patterns. When crossing time zones, your internal clock needs time to adjust, which can take several days. Factors that influence this adaptation are:

  • how many time zones are crossed, and
  • whether you fly eastward or westward—the former takes longer to adjust.

Keep in mind that, in order to make up sleep or to adjust to a new zone, the best times to sleep are between 0300-0500 or 1300-1500.

For tips on how to improve your quality or length of sleep check out HPRC’s Sleep Optimization section, and for information on how sleep loss impacts all of the areas of Total Fitness check out HPRC’s Overview on sleep loss.

Are you getting the protection your sunscreen promises?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given sunscreen manufacturers an additional six months to clean up their labeling on their products.

It’s always a good idea to replace old sunscreen, but next summer you’ll have even more reason to do so. Sunscreen companies have until December 2012 to revise their labels to abide by FDA’s new guidelines. The new labels will prevent manufacturers from false advertising with respect to the level of protection they provide. Sunscreens also will have to go through FDA’s testing to determine their effectiveness.

The new guidelines are summarized below:

Broad-spectrum designation: Sunscreens will have to pass FDA’s broad-spectrum test to be labeled as such. This confirms the sunscreen protects against both ultraviolet A and B rays, both of which contribute to skin cancer and early skin aging.

Use claim: Only broad-spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher can claim to reduce skin cancer risk and early skin aging if used as directed. Sunscreens with SPFs between 2 and 14 can claim only to help prevent sunburn.

Waterproof, sweatproof, and sunblock claims: Sunscreens will no longer be able to claim they are waterproof, sweat-proof, or “sunblock,” since those claims over-exaggerate their effectiveness. No sunscreen is waterproof or sweat-proof without the proper reapplication. Also, sunscreens do not “block” the sun; they reduce the penetration of the ultraviolet rays.

Water-resistance claims: Any sunscreen with a “water-resistant” label must indicate whether it is effective for 40 or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating.

Drug facts: All sunscreens must include standard drug-facts information on the label.

Summer heat and the outdoors—a perfect recipe for heat illness

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Summer is here! These reminders will help keep you and your family safe during outdoor activities in the heat.

With the summer weather here to stay for a few months, HPRC wants to remind you of the dangers of heat illness and the importance of staying hydrated. This information can relate to any outdoor activity such as exercising, hiking, bike riding, or playing in the park.

HPRC has tips on preventing heat-related illness and various guidelines for avoiding heat injuriesHydration is an important factor for keeping you and your loved ones happy and healthy.  Children need to be careful as well since they seem to have an infinite amount of energy while playing outside. In addition to water, sports drinks can also be beneficial. Keep this information in mind while you are out and about with your friends, family, and pets. Happy Summer!

New One Shot One Kill materials now available online

New program materials for the One Shot One Kill (OSOK) performance enhancement program are now available on HPRC’s website!

One Shot One Kill: Want to learn how the elite warrior accomplishes optimal performance time after time, under the most challenging conditions? The HPRC now has new program materials for the One Shot One Kill (OSOK) performance enhancement program online for you to use and download—by yourself or with your unit! One Shot One Kill (Integrative Platform version) is a “warrior-centric” performance enhancement program that warriors can set up and manage on their own. OSOK-IP is designed to enhance performance, hardiness, and resilience. By building on the skills that Warfighters already possess, OSOK aims to translate good Warfighter qualities to outstanding ones. OSOK-IP comes in two versions:

OSOK-IP Solo is a step-by-step integrative training plan, with supplemental materials, that enables the individual Warfighter to pursue this method of Total Fitness on his or her own and reach the optimal level of performance in almost all areas of life.

OSOK-IP Train the Trainer enables your unit to train as a group by selecting one member to learn and present OSOK-IP to the rest of the unit. This section of the website has the full curriculum available to download and even customize OSOK-IP content for your own military culture and unit.

We look forward to your feedback, too. Check out OSOK and let us know what you think!

Exercise safely in the cold

If you exercise in the cold, consider these tips from the American Council of Exercise (ACE; Exercising in the Cold) to stay safe.

If you exercise in the cold, consider these tips from the American Council of Exercise (ACE; Exercising in the Cold) to stay safe. Check how cold it is before you go out, and do not exercise if the conditions are too extreme. Be sure to dress warmly (keep your head, hands, and feet warm) and dress in layers that can trap insulating dry air near your skin. In addition, avoid blowing air into your gloves and mittens because it will add moisture, which will cause your hands to be colder. For more detailed information, you can read the original American College of Sports Medicine position stand: prevention of cold injuries during exercise.

Summertime heat poses risk for soldiers' PT

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
This summer has produced an exceptional amount of record heat across the U.S. This has impacted the Army’s PT with two incidences of soldier death and several cases of heat-related illness.

The ArmyTimes reported that due to this summer’s excessive heat wave, which affected most of the United States, the Army’s physical training has been impacted by two heat-related deaths and several cases of soldiers who became ill in the heat and sought medical treatment for heat injuries. According to the article, Army officials are looking for better ways to handle the heat and keep soldiers from succumbing to it.

Heat injuries can be a cause of both illness and fatalities. The Environment: Heat section of HPRC’s website provides valuable information on policies, reports, and guidelines for surviving and performing in hot environments.

How extreme heat conditions affect the body

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment
Extreme heat poses a high risk and can impair the body's ability to regulate core temperatures that can lead to a variety of heat-related illnesses such as dehydration and heat stroke.

With hot, humid conditions expected to last through the week, the Los Angeles Times featured an article that explains how the body senses life-threatening danger and starts fighting to keep cool when the temperature rises in extreme heat conditions. Those at highest risk include people over age 60 and those who are overweight or have heart disease, diabetes, or respiratory problems. Being aware of the symptoms of heat illness and taking preventive measures to stay cool and hydrated are the keys to protecting against heat-related illness.

Not all sunscreens are created equal

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
The FDA is taking steps to protect and educate consumers about sun exposure and sunscreen products. Choose "broad spectrum" products for greatest protection.

Warfighters are deployed to all kinds of environments, including hot and dry conditions where sun exposure is a concern. Choosing a "broad-spectrum" product that protects against sunburn, skin cancer, and premature skin aging is important, but product labeling can be confusing. Now, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking steps to regulate the labeling of sunscreen products in order to help consumers choose a product that will protect them from sun damage to the skin.

The new measures include a regulation, effective one year from now, that requires sunscreens to undergo a standard test if they want to be labeled as a “broad spectrum” product. Those that pass the test will be allowed to use “broad spectrum” on their packaging, which indicates a product that provides protection against both ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) and ultraviolet A radiation (UVA). UVB rays are primarily responsible for sunburn, but both UVA and UVB rays are harmful and can cause sunburn, skin cancer, and premature skin aging.

Other provisions in the FDA regulation include:

  • A warning about the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging on the labels of sunscreen products that are not broad spectrum.
  • The amount of time the consumer can expect protection from a product with water resistance claims must be stated on the front label. The FDA, based on standard testing, will allow either a 40-minute or 80-minute timeframe on labels.
  • Products will no longer be allowed make a claim of “waterproof” or “sweatproof” or use the term “sunblock,” nor can they make the claim of immediate or instant protection or protection for more than two hours without reapplication.

Additional measures regarding the labeling of sunscreen products have been proposed. To learn more, view the FDA’s full article.

Heat stress is a concern even for the fittest Warfighter

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Heat acclimatization is the process of giving your body the time needed to adapt to exertion in extreme heat. Even the fittest Warfighters need to take time to acclimatize.

Heat-related injuries are a threat to Warfighters, even those in top physical condition, deployed to extreme environments. Heat acclimatization is necessary to ensure that the health and performance of Warfighters is not compromised to a dangerous degree when exposed to heat stress.

Take it slow. For unacclimatized Warfighters, physical exertion should be limited in intensity and time. Allow 9-14 days of progressive heat exposure and exertion—more for less-fit Warfighters, less for more-fit Warfighters.

Don’t overdo it; don’t underdo it! Heat acclimatization requires exposure at least two hours per day (can be two one-hour segments) while engaged in a cardiovascular exercise (which should increase in intensity each day of the acclimatization period).

It’s all relative. The level of heat acclimatization achieved is relative to the exertion normally expended by the Warfighter. If light exertion is the norm, the level of heat acclimatization after two weeks will match that. If more strenuous exertion is called for, additional acclimatization and possibly improved fitness is required.

Work smart. If Warfighters must perform physical work during the acclimatization period, take advantage of the cooler hours during the morning, evening, and night.

Stay hydrated. Adequate water is essential. Heat acclimatization increases sweating and, therefore, water requirements. Dehydration rapidly degrades safety and performance, even for those who are already heat acclimatized or in top physical condition.

For a more detailed look at heat stress and acclimatization, read HPRC’s reports on managing heat exposure.

Outside Magazine plunges into the work at USARIEM

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Outside Magazine’s Christopher Solomon, took the plunge, so to speak, into the work conducted at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM).

Research at USARIEM (U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine) was featured in a article by writer Christopher Solomon titled "G.I. Joe and the House of Pain" in a special issue of Outside Magazine about human performance. The author spent time in the research lab's heat chamber, altitude chamber, and cold-water pool—conditions that simulate the extreme environmental conditions found in theater. He interviewed research physiologists there about USARIEM's work over the past 50 years as well as its current studies, all of which address the crucial issues of Warfighter health and performance in extreme environments.

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