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: Family & Relationships
Recent DoD policy changes now allow transgender persons to openly serve in the military. News about this and a greater presence of transgender people—at school and on TV—might prompt questions from your kids about what it means to be transgender and gender-nonconforming.
People typically are assigned a sex—based on their genital anatomy—at birth. Assigning individuals into 2 sex categories—male or female—also means there are expectations that one will behave in a way that aligns culturally with his or her assigned sex. For example, in the U.S. and most other western cultures, a girl is expected to play with dolls, while a boy is expected to play with toy cars. The behaviors and expressions of one’s sex make up his or her gender.
For some kids and adults, the sex identities they were assigned at birth don’t align with their internal genders, or “gender identities,” that they believe more accurately reflects their true selves. When your internal view of yourself is different from your external, assigned sex, then you come to consider yourself transgender or “trans.” Read more...
Healthcare providers commonly treat kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with medication and behavioral therapy, but proper nutrition can improve your child’s success in school and at home too.
Nutrient-dense foods boost kids’ overall health, especially for those with ADHD. They often consume poor diets consisting of mainly white flours and sugars because kids with ADHD crave these foods. However, these foods are missing valuable nutrients needed for muscle growth and brain development. Inadequate fuel can impact your child’s behavior, mood, sleep, and even lead to constipation. However, your child can grow and perform well when he or she eats a variety of foods: whole grains, protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables, and water. Read more...
School’s back in session, and kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) struggle with focus, hyperactivity, and schedules. It’s especially important for them to keep a consistent routine, limit screen time, and get a good night’s sleep.
Regular routines are important for all kids, especially those with ADHD because they’re more likely to get distracted. And some might have a harder time completing their tasks. A consistent routine helps them stay on track. Tip: Hang a “daily routine” chart on your refrigerator. Make sure it includes tasks your child must complete in the morning—such as brushing teeth and hair, washing his or her face, and changing clothes—before heading out the door. Add bedtime tasks such as packing his or her lunch and backpack to the chart too. Using the chart as a guide to repeat the same behaviors every day can help your child stick to successful morning and evening routines.
Children and teens with ADHD tend to spend more time in front of screens than other kids. Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation and limit your child’s screen time to 1–2 hours daily. And set up a “screen-free zone” in your house—where everyone agrees to avoid TVs, cell phones, tablets, game consoles, and laptops. Encourage your kids to move more instead: They can head outdoors or play team sports. Aerobic exercise also can help reduce inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
A bedtime routine can help kids with ADHD improve their sleeping patterns too. Make sure to establish and maintain a set bedtime. And consider removing all media and screens from your child’s bedroom. Kids also should avoid consuming caffeine before heading off to dreamland.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Sex and other intimate behaviors are natural parts of life and important to maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner. Learn about the health benefits of sex and how to build intimacy—in and out of the bedroom—and much more in HPRC’s new Sex, Sexuality & Intimacy section. And find answers to frequently asked questions about common sexual problems, how to spice up your sex life, and other sex and intimacy issues affecting service members. You’ll find links to other helpful resources about sexual health and intimacy too.
As summer vacation comes to an end, the transition back to school is just around the corner. Now’s the time to review the ABCs of a Total Family Fitness transition back to school: Awareness, Bedtime, Calmness, Diet, and Exercise. This is your chance to lay a foundation for your family’s healthy habits throughout the school year. HPRC's Total Family Fitness approach focuses on the health, wellness, and resilience of your family. It can help optimize and strengthen your family’s performance by integrating strategies that impact their mind, body, relationships, and environment—many of the same strategies used in the Total Force Fitness model for Warfighters. Read more...
Two-a-day practices have started for teens in fall sports. One big issue is concussion education: learning the signs of a concussion and then what to do if you actually have one—or if someone you know does. Several dietary supplement manufacturers have promoted products to help with recovery from concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), but there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support these claims. If you suffer from a concussion or TBI, make sure you follow your doctor’s orders for recovery. And if you have children involved in sports, watch them for possible signs.
FDA warns consumers to avoid using products that claim to prevent or treat a concussion or TBI. For more information, read FDA’s Consumer Update on dietary supplements and concussions.