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HPRC Fitness Arena: Physical Fitness

Physical activity can boost quality sleep

A new study suggests that exercising at least 150 minutes a week can help people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day.

Besides keeping you healthy and fit, exercise has another important benefit. According to a news release from Oregon State University, a study conducted on more than 2,600 men and women between ages 18 to 85 found that individuals who exercise for 150 minutes a week at a moderate to vigorous level experience a 65% improvement in sleep quality. In addition, active people experienced less daytime sleepiness than those who are inactive. These findings appeared to be across the board—subjects experienced better sleep regardless of age, weight, and other health habits. For many, regular physical activity can be an effective, non-pharmaceutical alternative to improving sleep and concentration levels during waking hours.

The study, which was published in the December 2011 issue of Mental Health and Physical Activity, adds more evidence to the amazing body of research that demonstrates the importance of exercise for overall health.

Running to exercise

Running is one of the easiest forms of aerobic exercise, which strengthens your heart and improves your overall health.

Running is a great exercise to help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Running improves your cardiovascular system by strengthening your heart muscle and improving your circulation. As your heart muscle becomes stronger, your heart can pump more blood more easily. This helps deliver more oxygen to fuel your working muscles and remove byproducts such as carbon dioxide.

Workouts you can do at home during the holidays

You can fit in these workouts at your home through the holiday season to keep you on track.

With the holiday season upon us, finding time for our usual workouts can sometimes be difficult. Two great physical fitness resources are the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Each has online workouts that you can try for free.

For a total body workout that you can do at home with free weights, try this total body workout from ACE that includes videos of the warm-up, the workout, and the cool-down. For a total body workout without additional equipment, try this at-home workout.

If you have less time, try this Basic Bodyweight Strength Training Program from ACSM.

Fit in these workouts in at home through the holiday season to keep you on track.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

This martial art relies on technique and balance to overcome an opponent, but it will also tone and build muscle without the use of weights.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu—or BJJ—focuses on ground fighting techniques, also known as grappling. You can start your training at a level appropriate to your physical fitness, but ultimately you will find that your endurance increases as your opponent also learns the techniques designed to dominate. Although BJJ requires little to no physical strength—mainly technique and balance—you will find that your muscle tone and mass increase gradually without requiring weight training.

Swim to stay healthy

Swimming is not only one of the best total-body exercise forms, it can also help you avoid getting sick. Take the plunge!

Swimming is an excellent way to reduce the risk of disease. It works your entire body and activates all the major muscle groups; contributes to muscle strength, flexibility, posture, and endurance; promotes weight loss and stress reduction; and improves cardiovascular conditioning by lowering your resting heart and respiratory rates and making blood flow to the heart and lungs more efficient. Swimming is also very low risk for injury because it places stress on your bones, joints, and connective tissues, thanks to the buoyancy of the water. Swimming 15 to 30 minutes each day can have a very positive effect on your overall health.

Be specific about your training

You will get the best results from your training program if you tailor it to fit your personal goals and activities.

When training, an athlete should be specific about methods of training that meet the needs of the activity he or she is training for. To achieve an optimal performance level, a sprinter will train in a different way than, for example, an endurance athlete such as a marathon runner. Make sure that you “stress the physiological systems” right for your type of activity. In other words, if you are going to compete in a race, you need to run to become a better runner. Likewise, if you are going to compete in a cycling or swimming event, you must perform those exercises to become better. Wanna be a better tennis player?  Play tennis! Although a well rounded program that includes strength training, aerobic conditioning, and flexibility exercises will improve your general fitness, to improve at a specific activity or sport you must perform that particular exercise.

Marines address boot camp injuries

Reducing injuries during boot camp is a priority for the Marine Corps; athletic trainers keep watch over recruits to ensure the 13-week training is as injury-free as possible.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting on how the Marine Corps has hired 27 certified athletic trainers—most with experience tending professional and college athletes—to oversee training for enlisted recruits and officer candidates at sites throughout the United States. According to the article, this is a new direction for the Corps: Not that long ago, the drill instructors might have dismissed recruits who complained of being injured and ordered them back into action.

To learn more about military recommendations for prevention of injuries related to physical training related, visit the HPRC’s Injury Management page and click on the link to read Recommendations for Prevention of Physical Training (PT)-Related Injuries.

Progressive overload injuries

Don’t get injured by trying to do too much too soon. Ramp up your exercise regimen slowly and steadily to avoid getting hurt—and having to start over.

Overuse injuries are a common risk associated with the rigors of physical training. A healthy tip to implement into your training program is to gradually increase your training workload by just 10% each week. This will help—but not guarantee—to reduce the risk of muscle or joint injury such as tendonitis or stress fractures caused by repetitive trauma. In essence, keep the progressive changes in your activity levels gradual, listen to your body, and make incremental adjustments in time and intensity until you reach your new fitness goals.

Future Trends: DARPA looking to develop “performance underwear” for warriors

DARPA researchers envision a future of soldier technology that will improve Warfighter effectiveness by employing high-tech underwear.

The future of Warfighter technology may someday include a high-tech “performance underwear” bodysuit that will protect soldiers from injuries, monitor vitals, and help soldiers maintain body energy while on the battlefield. This, according to an article in, is what DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) hopes to one day accomplish. DARPA describes this so-called performance underwear concept as being an “adaptive, compliant, nearly transparent, quasi-active joint support suit,” which can “mitigate musculoskeletal injury caused by discrete dynamic events while maintaining soldier performance.” According to the official solicitation notice, the “DARPA Warrior Web program…will develop the technologies required to prevent and reduce musculoskeletal injuries caused by dynamic events typically found in the Warfighter's environment. This will be accomplished by a system (or web) of structures, in the form of a skin-suit, that are compliant and transparent until injury-causing conditions activate appropriate changes in the web structure.”

Sounds good…except there is one catch: Right now, military technology of this caliber doesn’t exist. The Wired article indicates that DARPA plans to introduce its future performance tool this month to a meeting of potential researchers. Their goal? To find a company that might be able to create a compliant, Warfighter-wearable, quasi-passive, adaptive suit system that can reduce injuries and retain optimal warrior performance.

Stay active and reduce stress

Stressed out? Try getting more exercise, and you may find your high blood pressure dropping along with your stress level.

Many who suffer from a lot of stress also have high blood pressure and do not exercise. People who practice some form of activity or exercise benefit from less stress associated with personal, family, and work situations. Reducing stress will improve your health. Exercise helps improve your stress tolerance and also can strengthen your cardiovascular system, increase endorphin levels, and keep you mentally focused. Bike rides, power walking, and yoga are some of the many inexpensive, time-efficient ways to improve your general fitness and reduce stress. The Mayo Clinic has more good advice on how and why to reduce stress.

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