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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: Physical Fitness

Postpartum exercise

How soon can you start to exercise after giving birth?

The benefits of exercise in the postpartum period (six to eight weeks after delivery) include decreased physical, mental, and general fatigue, in addition to improved fitness and motivation. It may even reduce depression, as long as the exercise relieves stress rather than provokes it.

Some women who exercise during their pregnancy and immediately resume exercise after giving (vaginal) birth aren’t at risk for post-partum complications (such as excessive or prolonged bleeding, uterine inversion, or infection). However, most women don’t meet the recommendations for exercise during pregnancy, so when you do resume exercise, you should do so gradually.

You may be concerned that exercise could decrease your milk supply; however, exercising women who drink enough fluid (stay hydrated) and eat enough to meet their caloric needs continue to produce enough breast milk. Composition of breast milk remains the same with moderate exercise intensity, but vigorous exercise can cause lactic acid to appear in the milk, which could affect how well your baby accepts your milk. Consider nursing before participating in vigorous exercise.

Returning to physical activity after giving birth depends on the individual. Be sure to discuss your exercise habits and plans with your doctor before resuming your regular workout routine. Visit this web page from The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to learn more about exercise in the postpartum period. Stay healthy for you and your baby!

Stand up and get moving!

Filed under: Exercise, Walking
Add a few extra minutes of movement to your day, and you’ll be healthier for it.

Too much sitting during the day is linked to multiple illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. And sitting has become an all-too-common activity in the modern workplace. One remedy to the problem is the use of standing desks. However, even standing isn’t enough to keep you at your healthiest. Another important weapon against sitting disease is movement. By adding just 2 minutes of walking every hour, you can increase blood flow to your heart and other muscles. These short bursts of movement “wake the body up” and keep important systems working. If it helps, set a timer on your phone or computer to remind you to walk around at least once every hour. This doesn’t replace the recommendations for getting regular exercise, but it will help keep you active and healthy! Get moving!

Spare your back when moving

Here’s a reminder about how to handle heavy objects properly and protect your back when loading your moving truck during PCS.

Service members and their families relocate a lot, and moving to a new home is hard enough without adding injury. Here are some tips on how to properly handle heavy objects such as moving boxes and furniture, and how to take care of yourself if you do sustain an injury:

  • Wear less-restrictive clothing such as looser-fitting pants or workout clothes.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes.
  • Take breaks when necessary. Stretching and reassessing your mechanics can help you maintain proper posture when lifting. HPRC has tips on how to maintain flexibility and remove tension in your body.
  • The U.S. Army has fact sheets on Lifting Techniques for handling heavy objects and How to Safely Perform Pushing and Pulling Tasks.
  • Remember to keep your core tight, and use your leg muscles rather than your back to lift heavy objects.

The best way to prevent back injury is to strengthen your back and core muscles. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has suggestions and exercises to help build your back.

If you’re sore from all the lifting or think you may have pulled something, you can treat the pain with ice and rest—and perhaps an over-the-counter pain reliever—for the first 48 hours. Follow NIH guidelines on how to further treat your back pain if it’s acute. However, if the pain persists, consult your doctor to rule out a more serious back problem or injury before you do any more heavy lifting. If all seems well, consider core-strengthening exercises to support your back. Another option is a yoga class to relieve your pain, build your muscles, and return your back to normal function.

For more about how to protect your back, please visit HPRC’s Injury Prevention Series. Good luck with your PCS!

The foundations of Total Force Fitness

Get back to basics with the foundations of Total Force Fitness: health, resilience, and performance optimization. What are they and how do they go together?

Have you heard the terms “resilience” and “Total Force Fitness,” but you’re not quite sure what they mean or where they fit into the health and performance picture? Read on.

Your health is the foundation. The 2010 article "Why Total Force Fitness?" states, “nothing works without health.” Health is not just physical and not just something to worry about when you’re sick. Health is a combination of physical, mental, spiritual, and social well-being and includes practices that promote wellness in addition to those that help you recover from sickness or injury.

Resilience is next. Resilience is the ability to bounce back—or even better, forward—and thrive after experiencing hardship. It is not the ability to completely withstand hardship but rather the ability to come back from it and grow stronger through the experience.

Next is human performance optimization (HPO). Unlike resilience, which typically requires the experience of hardship, HPO involves performing at your best for whatever goal or mission you have (whether that is your PT test, a combat mission, or raising children). It goes beyond simply resisting challenges; it means functioning at a new optimal level to face new challenges.

Health, resilience, and optimal performance are the foundations of Total Force Fitness, which is defined in the “Physical Fitness” chapter of “Total Force Fitness for the 21st Century” (see link above) as a “state in which the individual, family, and organization can sustain optimal well-being and performance under all conditions.” Being totally fit requires a holistic approach—that is, an approach that doesn’t focus on just one aspect alone such as nutrition or physical fitness, but on multiple domains of fitness. It means attending to your mind (including psychological, behavioral, spiritual, and social components) and your body (including physical, nutritional, medical and environmental components). In order to achieve Total Force Fitness, these factors come together to enhance your resilience and/or performance.

This is where HPRC can help you on your quest for total fitness. By visiting each of our domains—Physical Fitness, Environments, Nutrition, Dietary Supplements, Family & Relationships, and Mind Tactics—you can get evidence-based information on a variety of holistic topics to help you achieve and sustain total fitness. But remember that total fitness is a life-long process that will ebb and flow. And it isn’t just about you; your loved ones are an important piece of the picture, too.

To learn more, check out HPRC’s "What is 'Total Force Fitness'?" and for in-depth information, visit the Total Force Fitness Articles section of HPRC’s website.

Men's Health Month: Exercise and older men

Certain risk factors for chronic diseases increase with age. Older men especially need to maintain an active lifestyle in order to prevent future health complications.

For older men, it’s especially important to lead a healthy and physically active lifestyle since the risk for certain chronic diseases increases with age. Multiple studies have found that as little as 30 minutes a day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise can significantly lower a man’s risk for heart disease and related risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Age is also a significant risk factor for developing prostate and colorectal cancers, which makes prevention and risk-factor management even more important for older men.

Exercise has been linked to lower risk and rates of death for prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers, the three most common cancers experienced by men. So get out there! Take a brisk walk, go for a jog, swim, bike, play tennis, even certain heavy outdoor yard work is acceptable for this purpose. If you need more structure, try a gym—many fitness centers offer military discounts on memberships and personal training sessions. Some military facilities also offer group and family recreational activities. The important thing is to find an exercise routine that you enjoy. If it’s not fun or motivating then it’s not likely to become part of your lifestyle.

The benefits of an active lifestyle are numerous, but prevention is one goal to keep your regular exercise program on the right track. Be sure to consult with your physician before starting an exercise routine, especially if exercise is new for you. Living a healthy lifestyle and getting screened for health complications are important ways to maintain readiness, resilience and optimal performance.

Warrior Games 2015

The 2015 Warrior Games will be starting soon, and they have a new venue!

The 2015 Warrior Games will be held June 19–28 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. From 2010–2014, the Olympic Committee hosted the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This year, DoD has taken over organizing the event.

The Warrior Games use adaptive sports and athletic reconditioning to help service members recover, rehabilitate, and reintegrate following injury. This year’s games will feature almost 200 wounded, ill, and injured service members from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and the British Armed Forces competing in eight different sporting events. Get more information and details about this year’s exciting and extremely competitive event!

Remembering on Memorial Day

Filed under: Memorial Day
Memorial Day is not only a time to remember those who have served but to remember how to serve those who do.

Today is Memorial Day. Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” after the Civil War. In 1882, Decoration Day became widely known as Memorial Day, and after WWII it became a day to remember all our fallen heroes, not just those from the Civil War. In 1967, Congress passed the law making it an official holiday to be celebrated on May 30, subsequently changed to the last Monday of May. We at HPRC extend our greatest appreciation to those who have perished for our nation and offer our sincere sympathy for the families left behind. There are many ways people choose to remember those who gave their lives as a supreme sacrifice to our country and its ideals. HPRC is dedicated to providing our Warfighters and their families the information they need to build resilience to prevent injury and illness and carry out their missions as safely and effectively as possible. Our desire is to reduce the level of sacrifice our warriors have to make as they fulfill their future missions for us and for our nation.

Is hot yoga too hot?

Bikram yoga, or “hot yoga,” has become a popular activity for fitness, flexibility, strength, and mindfulness. Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Individuals who practice Bikram (hot) yoga find themselves in a 104°F room for up to 90 minutes, performing various poses and breathing exercises. This intense form of yoga claims to improve flexibility, mental focus, strength, and overall fitness. Researchers have found that Bikram yogis exhibit lower stress levels, improved endurance, muscle strength, and balance after as few as 20 yoga sessions in 8 weeks. Some older adults who participated in Bikram yoga even experienced a decrease in body-fat and improved overall glucose tolerance.

Despite these potential benefits, there are also risks with doing yoga in such an extreme environment. During a Bikram yoga session, people’s core temperature and heart rate can reach dangerous levels associated with heat illness. To reduce the risks, experts suggest sessions of 60 minutes or less, slightly lower room temperatures, and frequent water breaks. Instructors should remind their students to stay hydrated and replenish the water that they’re losing through sweat. If your instructor discourages water breaks, you should find a new instructor.

If you’re new to yoga, we recommend starting off with more traditional styles of yoga that do not involve high temperatures. Traditional styles and gentle yoga (including stretching with yoga) are also beneficial and safer for adults who may be less heat tolerant and/or are beginners.

Many people find Bikram yoga to be challenging and enjoyable, but it’s important to be smart about this kind of workout. 

Underfueling can lead to underperformance

Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred fuel for performance, so what happens when you skimp on carbohydrates?

If you limit carbohydrates and underfuel your body, your performance may suffer. Carbs feed the working muscles and help maintain blood sugar. In addition, carbs help you recover after a difficult workout or mission.

Underfueling by limiting carbohydrates can be intentional—when limiting calories, avoiding gluten, or losing weight. Or you may be limiting carbs unintentionally if you are unsure how many carbs to eat or if you’re are skipping meals or snacks due to limited time or money. And female warriors are more susceptible to under-fueling.

So what type of carbs should you be eating? Properly fuel your body by filling your plate two-thirds to three-fourths with carbs such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and dairy. Choose a variety of fruit and vegetables to maximize vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Whole-grain breads, grains, and pastas provide more performance-boosting nutrients than white-flour and refined versions. Low-fat dairy products contribute carbs along with protein and calcium.

Carbohydrate needs differ depending your activity, type of exercise, and intensity, and your calorie needs and may change from day to day. For more information on carbohydrate needs before, during, and after activities, see HPRC’s An Athlete's Guide to Everyday Nutrient Timing.

Keep on eye on your weight and performance to help you determine if you’re taking in too few carbs. If you’re losing weight without trying or find yourself having trouble performing at your best, you may be underfueling. For more personalized recommendations on carbohydrate intake, visit a registered dietitian.

Too loud for you to hear?

There are some tips you can use to prevent exposure to hazardous noise levels recreationally and occupationally.

A staggering number of Americans (approximately 36 million) have hearing loss, and one-third of those probably could have been prevented. Hearing loss continues to be a safety hazard for Warfighters at home and in the field. So how do we combat this not-so-silent epidemic?  Here are a few tips to help you protect your hearing.

  • Wear a hearing protective device (HPD). HPDs should be worn for noise levels at or above 85dB. Not sure what 85dB really means? Check out this guide to occupational noise levels.  Also check out “How Loud is Too Loud?,” a graphic designed to inform Warfighters about how and when to choose the proper HPD for their jobs.
  • Learn how to wear your HPD correctly. Even if you have the correct protection, it may not be effective if you’re not wearing it correctly.
  • Always have disposable HPDs handy. Disposable HPDs are lightweight and easily portable. Make them a part of your everyday gear.

For more information about how to protect yourself against or to seek help for hearing loss check out the DoD Hearing Center of Excellence website or make an appointment with your local hearing loss treatment center.

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