You are here: Home / HPRC Blog
RSS Feed for Physical Fitness

HPRC Blog

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: Physical Fitness

Helmets save lives

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and National Bike Month. This Memorial Day, bicycle and motorcycle enthusiasts will take to the roads. Wearing a helmet is essential!

Bicycle and motorcycle helmets save lives and help prevent serious brain and face injuries. Service members wear helmets on the battlefield to prevent death and serious head injury. Wearing helmets can reduce motorcycle-related deaths effectively. While bike helmets might not prevent concussions (a mild form of traumatic brain injury), they can go a long way toward preventing severe brain injuries.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2014 alone, more than 4,500 motorcyclists were killed in motor-vehicle accidents and an estimated 88,000 motorcyclists were injured. Motorcycle-related deaths were a significant cause of non-combat deaths among veterans in 2013.

Motorcycle safety classes provide safe riding strategies. For example, the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence offers safety courses for active duty, reserve, and guard members. And the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center sponsors a motorcycle mentorship program that pairs new riders with experienced ones.

Ready to bike to work or school—or just for fun? Check out the League of American Bicyclists website for helpful cycling tips, videos, and more. Ride smart!  

What surface is best for running?

Runners often hear the suggestion to “run on softer surfaces to save your knees.” When it comes to running and injury prevention, does surface matter?

The truth is that the jury’s still out on whether running on a softer surface has less impact on joints and muscles. Some research suggests it might not actually matter, and the forces that impact your lower body on various surfaces such as asphalt, concrete, and grass don’t increase knee pain or injury risk. One explanation is that your body automatically adapts to the surface you’re running on. That means you’ll instinctively strike harder on softer surfaces, and strike softer on harder surfaces. On the other hand, some evidence suggests that running on softer surfaces (such as grass) reduces stress on your muscles and joints.

“But it feels better when I run on soft surfaces,” you might say. That difference in feeling is likely due to the different kinds of muscles, or stabilizers, you use when running on softer surfaces, which creates a sensation of less impact, although the overall impact on your body is the same.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t run on soft surfaces if it makes you feel better. Feeling better on a run goes a long way. However, softer surfaces such as trails, grass, or sand tend to be more uneven, which can pose a greater risk of strains and sprains.

When it comes to injury prevention and recovery, it’s also important to consider other factors such as wearing the right running shoes. And be sure to increase your running intensity and volume gradually to help avoid injury too. 

Mind-body help for breast cancer

Filed under: Cancer, Mind-body, Yoga
It’s National Women’s Health Week! Breast cancer affects MANY women. Medical doctors can guide your recovery, but learn how complementary-health techniques can help you feel empowered.

Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, and meditation could help you cope with different aspects and symptoms of breast cancer. Stress-management programs such as music therapy and mind-body techniques (for example, yoga and mindfulness meditation) could bring some relief too.

You could experience anxiety, depression, and/or stress during your recovery. Many patients and survivors also suffer from fatigue or sleep problems. Qigong (moving meditation), gentle yoga, and stress management techniques can help ease fatigue and improve sleep habits. And make sure you monitor your energy. Don’t try to take on too much.

If you’re receiving chemotherapy and experiencing nausea, other complementary-health approaches such as electroacupuncture and acupressure can help. A mind-body technique known as progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing your muscles, could ease discomfort too.

HPRC offers additional resources on mind-body techniques and yoga. Adding these “weapons” to your arsenal might help you or someone you love in the battle against breast cancer. 

Fueling up for the PFT/PRT

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Physical Fitness
Getting ready for your PRT/PFT? Check out these tips that can help you pass with flying colors!

One of the best but most-overlooked ways to prepare for your Physical Fitness (PFT) or Physical Readiness Tests (PRT) is to make sure your body is well fueled. Proper fuel and a good workout strategy can get you ready to take on the challenge!

  • Keep hydrated. Drinking enough fluids will help your body function at its highest level. These amounts can vary depending on weather and location. Don’t restrict drinking water because you’re worried about weigh-in. This can backfire at test time.
  • Eat something light. You’ll need enough fuel to perform well, but too much can slow you down. Proper fuel should come from a high-carbohydrate source about 200–300 calories such as cereal, fruit, and milk. Or a slice of whole-wheat bread with egg or nut butter. Yogurt and fruit are nourishing pre-test snacks too. And try to eat 30–60 minutes before your PFT/PRT, if possible.
  • Avoid trying new foods. Try new bars, chews, gels, or other foods during training, but not before your test because you could experience gastrointestinal upset. Give yourself time to use the bathroom before too.

HPRC also offers good advice to help set your workout plan in place. Keep your body strong, fueled, and hydrated—and perform your best!

Putting some fun into recovery

Learn how therapeutic recreation can be part of the healing process or fitness program for injured and/or ill service members.

Getting fit and staying healthy can be especially challenging for service members with chronic illnesses, injuries, or disabilities. The good news is that recreation therapy can make the process less painful. Recreation therapists can help motivate and design activities that are enjoyable while they improve both physical and mental function and fitness. Therapeutic recreation also can help make subsequent life more enjoyable.

The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) suggests that those who are more active lead more satisfying, happier, and healthier lives. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and DoD recommend injured veterans get involved in adaptive sport programs and/or recreation therapy as part of their rehabilitation. Most rehabilitation hospitals have a recreation therapist on staff who can help develop individualized programs. There are also local and national programs such as the VA Adaptive Sports Program, Paralympics, and the Military Adaptive Sports Program.

Celebrate Mother’s Day

Filed under: Family, Relationships
Celebrate Mother’s Day wherever you’re serving—at home or abroad.

Mother’s Day is set aside to honor mothers, but for service members who can’t celebrate with their moms or who can’t take time to celebrate being a mom, it can be hard. But still do your best to take time and recognize the special moms in your life.

  • Show your appreciation with a handwritten note or ecard. If you’re feeling creative, make a card from scratch—just like you did as a kid—and drop it in the mail.
  • Enjoy a physical activity together. Go walking, running, biking, hiking, or do yoga. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, together or apart, can help you both enjoy Mother’s Day in the future too.
  • Nourish your mom with healthy treats or a homemade meal. And consider inviting a mom who doesn’t have family nearby. Good food and conversation can make her day special too.

If you can’t be with your mom, then schedule a time to talk or video chat. Let her know how much you cherish your relationship. And ask any questions you might have wondered about, such as:

  • How are we alike or different?
  • What did you really think when I joined the military (or married someone in the military)?
  • Is it easier being a mother now that your kids are grown?
  • What do you hope the next few years will bring for our family?

If you’re feeling some sadness or anxiety, make a point to manage your stress. “Perfect” moms and/or children could evoke stress, even if you love them dearly. Consider mindfulness or other ways to cope, and make the best of this day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all military moms—service members, spouses, and mothers of service members!

PFT/PRT prep—Part 3: Mobility

Mobility, stability, and flexibility go hand in hand when translating your PFT/PRT training into performance. Training for each requires different but complementary approaches.

This is the third and final article in HPRC’s series about training for Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT). The last basic component involves keeping your body fit for movement, especially your joints and the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments. For coordinated and efficient movements, you need give-and-take between the mobility and stability of these parts.

Preventing injuries also requires mobility and stability of your musculoskeletal system. To improve and maintain your mobility, you need to incorporate stretching into your regular training regimen, along with your aerobic and muscular-strength exercises. The addition of muscular-strength exercises to flexibility exercises addresses your joint-stability needs. Read more...

PFT/PRT prep—Part 2: Muscular strength

Part 2 of HPRC’s PFT/PRT prep series focuses on exercising for muscular strength and endurance—critical components to performing your best on your fitness test.

Another basic component of Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT) training involves muscular strength and endurance, but as with aerobic conditioning, you need to develop it over time, not just before your fitness tests. Whether you’re training or in the field, and even when you’re not thinking about it—such as moving ammunition boxes into a transport—your muscular strength and endurance are essential components of your overall fitness.

But training to improve muscular strength is not the same as training for muscular endurance. Muscular strength is the amount of force that a muscle can produce with a single maximum effort. Muscular endurance is the ability to sustain a muscle contraction over a period of time, or to repeatedly contract a muscle over a period of time.

Learn how to use the FITT principle to develop a muscular fitness routine that will build both strength and endurance to prepare for PFT/PRT and beyond. Read more...

PFT/PRT prep—Part 1: Aerobic conditioning

The PFT/PRT is designed to test your cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength. In this three-part series, HPRC takes a closer look at each component, offers tips on training optimization, and suggests how to prevent common training-related injuries.

Preparation for your Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT) takes time and discipline. Training for the test isn’t something you should start the month before the test, and the habits you develop leading up to the test should be ones you continue even after the test. Weekend warriors and procrastinators are at greater risk for injury, and it’s likely that your performance will be less than optimal when it comes time for the test.

If you’re just getting back into shape, be sure to do it gradually. Once you’ve resumed a regular exercise routine, you might notice some aches and pains. Listen to your body. Watch out for symptoms of common athletic injuries such as overuse injuries and knee pain. It’s important to address these issues early to minimize any damage and get you back in action as soon as possible. Maintaining your exercise routine after the PFT/PRT and challenging yourself along the way will keep you in warrior-athlete shape year round and prevent deconditioning.

HPRC provides a series of articles with guidelines to help you prepare for the PFT/PRT, beginning with this one on aerobic conditioning. Read more...

Get your daughters moving!

Filed under: Families, Girls, Sports
Girls are less physically active then boys. With encouragement from parents and opportunities to get moving, girls can get the exercise they need.

On a daily basis, girls’ physical activity levels are lower than boys’ of the same age. They need extra support from their parents to get moving and find opportunities for physical fitness. A lack of physical activity can have negative consequences in the long term, such as poorer hand-eye coordination and worse overall health. But exercise isn’t just good for your child’s body; it’s also linked to better academic achievement.

One reason girls get less exercise is because they may not be offered opportunities to engage in physical fitness. Parents might assume their daughters don’t like sports and then don’t suggest they participate. Encouragement from parents matters. Don’t assume your daughter isn’t interested in physical fitness, even if she sometimes says she isn’t! Break up the times your daughter is just sitting around by getting her to go for a walk or move around the house. Ask her to help with tasks at home that require some physical activity. Encourage your daughter to enroll and stay involved in organized sports from a young age. Brainstorm physical activities she might enjoy. There’s trampoline, fencing, hip-hop dance, lacrosse, martial arts, soccer, ice hockey, skateboarding, rowing, swimming, yoga, or tennis, to name a few.

Remember that kids take their cues from their parents. Set an example by being physically active yourself, and your children will likely follow suit. All kids—boys and girls—need at least 60 minutes if physical activity a day. Not sure what type of exercises your children should be doing? Check out HPRC’s “Put some fun in your children’s fitness” for some great ideas.

RSS Feed for Physical Fitness