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HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships

Exergaming: Is it really exercise?

There are lots of exercise video games on the market, but should they really be considered exercise?

Between the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and the continuing popularity of video games among children, does exergaming actually count as physical activity? Exergaming, or exercise video gaming, is popular among children and adults because it offers entertainment and physical activity. Exergames include:

  • Virtual cycling
  • Interactive climbing machines
  • Aerobics, dancing, and floor games for multiple video game platforms
  • Mobile exercise games for smartphones and tablets

While it’s certainly fun, studies suggest that exergaming is not the best form of exercise for kids. It does increase energy expenditure (compared to rest), but it’s not necessarily enough to meet your children’s exercise needs. For example, when compared to a phys ed class, exergaming fell short. For the most part, kids who play exergames don’t burn enough calories or increase their heart rates enough to make up for exercising.

The good news about exergaming is that it can increase motivation and keep children engaged. It could be a great starting point for inactive children needing to begin a physical activity routine. It can be part of the daily-recommended doses of exercise and physical activity for kids and teens too. Families could find it as a fun alternative to sitting on the couch and watching a movie or TV show. Exergaming might be better than sitting and playing video games, but it shouldn’t replace more vigorous activities such as outside play. Save the exergaming for the next rainy or snowy day!

Teens need their sleep!

Filed under: Sleep, Teens
Teens often have trouble getting enough sleep, yet they need more than adults.

It’s a fact: Teens need more sleep than adults. While most adults require a minimum of 7–8 hours of shut-eye, teens need 9 or more hours. (Newborns sleep 16–18 hours, preschoolers 11–12 hours, and school-age kids 10+ hours.)

However, most teens tend to sleep only 7.4 hours on school nights. Middle- and high-school students also have different sleep cycles from adults, making it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. most nights. Homework, exams, sports, and other extracurriculars—even changes such as daylight savings time—can also throw your teen’s snooze schedule off-kilter. Does your teen crave screen time late at night? Blue light from computers, tablets, and cell phones can throw off their sleep cycles too. Plus, tuning into a recent text or social media post can get the brain going, which can also make it hard to fall asleep.

Teens’ body clocks can cause them to go to bed late and sleep late in the morning. Added to this, early school start times make it difficult for teens to get enough sleep. If possible, ask your local school officials about later start times, or consider finding schools with later start times. Students who attend schools that start later have:

  • More weeknight sleep
  • Less daytime sleepiness
  • Fewer concentration problems
  • Better attendance
  • Improved academic performance
  • Fewer car accidents

For more information, you can visit the National Sleep Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Learn more about helping your teen get a good night's sleep—and wake up ready to start the day!

Kindness always wins

Supporting others with a thoughtful word or act has numerous benefits. Learn how to create “win-wins” in your relationships.

A little kindness goes a long way. Thoughtfully supporting others actually improves your chances for a long life too. There are lots of ways to show helpfulness to neighbors, friends, or relatives such as providing transportation, running errands, or helping with childcare. Everyone benefits from giving and receiving support, and it doesn’t always have to be a deed or gesture.

Providing emotional support to somebody is one of the best gifts you can give. Share your thoughts and feelings, respond to each other’s needs, and listen attentively. Offer advice when asked. Not sure what to say? Sometimes your presence alone can bring comfort to someone who needs it. In fact, a caring gesture often encourages its recipient to return the kindness—so it becomes a “win-win.” Be nice, help others, and develop long-lasting relationships.

Especially for military parents

Being a parent is a tough job, but military parents have extra challenges. There’s a website that can help.

The military lifestyle can sometimes make parenting especially challenging, but there’s a website designed to help active-duty military and veteran parents. It’s a joint project between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Center for Telehealth and Technology. The website offers a free parenting course and additional resources, including tip sheets and videos. There’s an opportunity to provide feedback on the parenting course too.

Course topics and other resources include:

  • Communicating with your child
  • Helping your child manage emotions and behaviors
  • Taking a positive approach to discipline
  • Managing your own stress and emotions
  • Talking about deployment

Visit the Parenting for Service Members and Veterans website to find out more. There’s a Parenting2Go mobile app too! For more caregiving resources, check out HPRC’s Rock Solid Families page.

Valentine’s Day rewards

“Candy is dandy, but...” try these ways to reward your loved one even more this Valentine’s Day.

No doubt about it: Being rewarded is a great way to make someone happy. When you were a kid, you loved getting a reward for doing something good, right? It still works when you become an adult, but the reward—and what you did to earn it—is often more subtle. Rewarding your significant other for his or her daily acts of love and care is a sure way to bring you closer.

So this year, in addition to giving the usual flowers or chocolates or whatever you do for each other, try these two simple acts: Do or say something loving to your partner, and tell them you’re happy to be in a relationship with them.

For more information on supporting your relationship with your partner, visit HPRC’s Relationship Enhancement page.

Shifting from service family to civilian family

Transitioning from active duty to veteran status involves change. Learn how your entire family can weather these changes well.

Have you decided to separate from the military? If your estimated time of separation (ETS) date has arrived, you’ve probably checked off your long to-do list and officially become a veteran. This can be an exciting and emotional time. Regardless of your reason for separating, this is a time of transition for your entire family. Here are some tips for easing your path to civilian life. Read more here.

First comes love, then comes remarriage

Remarriage is an exciting time that brings lots of changes. Learn some tips to help ease this transition.

Getting married again is a time of new beginnings. It’s often a time of challenges and changes too. While you’re celebrating your marriage and deciding what kind of stepparent you’ll be (if your partner has children), there are a few things you can do to stay happy:

  • Maintain your identity as an individual—separate from your spouse. This will help you weather challenges with confidence. But strike a balance with staying close to your spouse too.
  • Focus on each other. Sharing intimacy with your spouse includes a healthy sex life too. This helps you two connect regularly.
  • Stay flexible. Often remarriage means juggling new responsibilities, living in a new place, or becoming a stepparent. Bending with whatever life throws at you means you’re less likely to break or falter.
  • Keep a sense of humor. Laughing at yourself or the situations you find yourself in can help you keep perspective.
  • Don’t take the place of a biological parent if you’re becoming a stepparent. Foster your own relationship with your stepchild and follow your partner’s lead.
  • Remember how you felt when you fell in love. Keep those memories alive—they’ll help get you through tougher times.  

A new year’s resolution for your relationships

Jump-start the new year! Resolve to improve your personal relationships in 2016.

Happy New Year! As you plan exciting changes in 2016, give some thought to your personal relationships:

  • What makes you happy?
  • Who can you count on if you have a serious problem?
  • Who is your best friend?
  • How close are you to family and friends outside of your unit?
  • How much closeness do you need/want?

Can’t answer some of these questions? Then think about how to make a change this year. Show loved ones that you care about them. Establish close bonds with those you can trust. Let others know they can rely on you. Resolve to focus on developing deeper relationships with those around you so that your safety net is set for 2017.

Dealing with loved ones during the holidays

Learn how to make friends with your family this holiday season.

It’s often great to connect with family and friends during the holidays, but it can occasionally feel like you’re drawn into old—sometimes negative—ways of communicating. If you only see your family now and then, they might view you as you were when you were younger instead of as you are now. Just being together in the same place can even ramp up old issues. Planning ahead for how to deal with situations can help you navigate them better and bring peace.

  • Think about potential friction points with loved ones.
  • Decide how you want to respond.
  • Be patient with others.
  • Stay positive and true to yourself.

What’s so great about gratitude?

Filed under: Gratitude, Mood
During the holiday season, we hear a lot about giving. Learn about the relationship and mind-body benefits from feeling and expressing gratitude.

Gratitude comes in different forms and has many benefits. There’s that thankful feeling when you receive a gift. Gratitude can also spring from awareness and appreciation of what’s really important. You can also express thanks to acknowledge that you value others, their actions, or how you benefit from others’ kindness.

When you express gratitude, you form tighter bonds with others and invest more in those relationships. Naturally, you take care of little things that help your relationship work. For example, expressing gratitude daily to your romantic partner for three weeks helps you care more about your loved one. When you say thanks, your partner is more likely to feel that there’s a fair split with household responsibilities.

If you’re feeling grateful, you might want to assist others. You could likely help someone with a personal problem, offer emotional support, and work cooperatively. You could also face what’s hard and feel more comfortable in voicing concerns to a friend or partner—partially because you’re in touch with how important that person is to you. Feeling gratitude increases your satisfaction with life and helps you remember what matters most—relationships, not material things.

The benefits of tapping into gratitude don’t end with better relationships. Writing down what you’re grateful for every day for three weeks can improve your mood, coping abilities, mental health, and physical well-being. Gratitude can also strengthen your belief that life is manageable, meaningful, and sensible. Thankfulness can help you feel less sad or anxious, as you experience more joy, enthusiasm, and love. It can even lower your blood pressure and risk of stroke, reduce stress hormones, and improve your immune system.

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