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HPRC Fitness Arena: Physical Fitness
Can you train in the heat to improve your performance at altitude? The answer is “sort of.” “Cross acclimation” or “cross tolerance” is the idea that exposing yourself to one environmental condition can help you adapt to another one as long as they have certain things in common.
As it turns out, this is the case for heat and hypoxia (low oxygen). This is important because athletes and service members can be exposed to altitude without prior or sufficient acclimatization. Altitude sickness can cause several problems, especially decreased performance. But some evidence shows that this method of training in hot conditions to prepare for altitude can actually work.
If you climb to the top of a mountain, there’s less air and less pressure. And you’re getting less oxygen with each breath. This can be simulated at sea level (in special labs) where pressures are normal, but the amount of oxygen in the air is reduced (fake altitude).
However, there’s a bit of a catch. Training in the heat under artificial low-oxygen conditions—normobaric hypoxia or “fake altitude”—involves normal pressure, which is different from “real altitude” or hypobaric hypoxia, which involves reduced oxygen at low pressure. The difference is in the pressure.
So, do these two environments cause the same types of physiological changes? There are several other factors involved in real-altitude acclimatization that might not be accounted for at fake altitude, so the jury’s still out.
Training in the heat might prepare you for performance at altitude—to a point. Ideally, if you’re going to be at altitude, try to acclimatize yourself as much as you can.
This Father’s Day, HPRC salutes the many fathers who serve their country, families, and children. Dads play an essential role in families because they teach their kids about being healthy, smart, and kind. And it makes a difference.
So how do fathers teach their kids to become good people? Some dads help their children tune in to their own emotions as well as what others are thinking and feeling. Empathic kids are able to tolerate some degree of anger and guilt. And they use these emotions to look out for themselves and others.
School-age children with involved fathers are more likely to earn better grades and enjoy school. Dads can get more involved by helping their kids with homework and attending school events. Ask your kids about what they’re learning and help foster that curiosity.
Try to volunteer when your schedule allows it too. Coach your child’s sports team or serve as a scout leader. Pick whatever activity he or she enjoys—and your athlete or “mathlete” will shine.
Dads also can help put the fun in family fitness. Organize a bike ride, challenging hike, or fun day at the pool. Fathers with healthy-exercise habits help motivate their kids to be physically fit and active.
Remember to teach your children how to fuel their bodies. Set a good example for your kids to follow. Choose healthy snacks and drinks often because your kids are likely to eat and drink “what Dad’s having.” And ask them to help create your favorite salsa, pancakes, and chili in the kitchen. Make sure to involve the entire family during cleanup too.
Fathers near and far: Thanks for all you do!
There are “steps” you can take to protect your feet from blisters. Common among athletes and service members, they might seem like a minor nuisance. However, if left untreated, they can lead to serious infections, sepsis (blood infection), and knee, ankle, or hip injuries.
Blisters result from a combination of friction and moisture. They’ve been blamed on shoe fit or lacing style, but scientific research has shown this isn’t necessarily the case. Common remedies—such as applying antiperspirant or drying powders to the bottom of the foot—aren’t very effective. And in some instances, they can cause irritation, increasing your chances of developing more blisters.
So if friction and moisture are causing problems, then wearing proper socks can bring relief. Look for ones made from acrylic fibers or materials other than cotton, which tends to stay wet. Synthetic materials (nylon, neoprene, and polyester) reduce the amount of shoe-to-sock and sock-to-foot friction by wicking moisture away from your skin. Padded socks also help because they allow for movement within the yarn, reducing frictional forces.
Some evidence suggests wearing a synthetic nylon or polyester liner with an outer-padded wool sock can help prevent blisters. Tip: Try finding your ideal sock before buying boots or shoes because the added bulk might affect the shoe size you need.
You also can reduce your risk of blisters by planning ahead, especially on extremely hot or rainy days. Avoid puddles. Remember to bring an extra pair of socks too. And avoid pouring water on your head since it can drip down into your shoes. Keep your feet happy and blister-free.
The best ways for men of any age to stay healthy include understanding risk factors, exercising regularly, eating right, and getting screened for potential health issues. Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death among men. The good news is that exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk for these illnesses. Visit your doctor for routine checkups too.
The Military Health System has declared June as Men’s Health Awareness Month. Wear Blue Day is Friday, June 17. Wear blue to help raise awareness about men’s health issues. Help spread the word that good-health habits keep them fit and strong. And visit HPRC’s Exercise section for information on strength training, fitness guidelines, and more.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!