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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: Total Force Fitness

Xena: Warrior Princess inspires new body armor

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Congress has directed the Pentagon to develop better-fitting body armor for female soldiers after a decade of women fighting on the front lines.

Although the military does not allow women to take part in direct combat, they routinely face the dangers of war. The Pentagon was recently pressed to develop better-fitting body armor for female soldiers, recognizing that men and women have different body shapes. Women have more curves, shorter torsos, and narrower shoulders than most of their male counterparts. The current male-based body armor creates gaps and additional pressure points that leaves service women vulnerable and reduces their performance (aiming a weapon, entering and exiting vehicles, etc).

Engineers are looking to create plates that conform to the female body, similar to the armor worn by TV’s popular Xena: Warrior Princess. There are some concerns regarding weight and protection, but so far the Army has tested eight sizes, with positive feedback from women Warfighters.

Meditation and TBI

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Traumatic Brain Injury has both physical and mental aspects, and mindfulness practices such as meditation may help, but the jury is still out.

Meditation has been suggested as a possible strategy to benefit those with TBI, but currently there is not enough research on the ability of those affected by TBI to meditate or to benefit from meditation, and the few published studies report different results, so its effectiveness remains unknown. For more information, read HPRC’s Overview, and for an even more in-depth analysis of the research, read our Research Summary on the topic.

Where’s Fido?

Pets can be good for one’s well-being. But what to do when you are deployed where Fido or Fluffy can’t go?

The American Psychological Association has officially recognized what animal lovers knew all along: pets are good for one’s mental health. Warfighters need help to reduce stress and support their mental health, and having a pet may provide some helpful companionship. The problem is that Warfighters end up going places their pets can’t go—so what do they do? They either don’t get pets in the first place, or they end up having to find places for their pets while they are deployed—a big source of unwanted stress. Unfortunately, when family or friends can’t help, that place may end up being a shelter. The American Humane Association has advice for military personnel, including making plans for the care of pets and, when all else fails, finding a foster home through organizations such as Military Pets FOSTER Project. So don’t stress out about your pet—or about getting one, if you’ve been putting it off. Hooah!

Performance Quote: Catching confidence

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
“Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” - Vince Lombardi, legendary NFL coach

Confidence is a central aspect of performance. Confidence comes from a belief in self, coupled with hard work. Surround yourself with confident people whose support can help get you through situations where it may seem impossible to succeed. Likewise, being a confident, positive role model helps bolster the confidence of those around you. Confidence within a group or unit is contagious and can have amazing results when you believe in yourself and those around you.

Heroes on and off the field

Play ball! Washington Nationals Wounded Warrior softball player was named MVP of the 2012 Taco Bell All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game.

The Most Valuable Player of the 2012 Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game title was given to Matt Kinsey, an infielder for the Washington Nationals Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team (WWAST). Kinsey represented the Nationals by being the starting first baseman for the National League team. He went three for three and added a homerun to help the NL destroy the American League 21-8.

His WWAST teammate also participated: Saul Bosquez was the team’s starting shortstop and also went three for three. The young men had the opportunity to be teammates with MLB Hall of Famers and celebrities from TV, movies, sports, and music.

Check out the photos from this star-studded event!

New Army camouflage: the end of the digital age?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Since 2004, Army personnel have donned the Universal Camouflage Pattern on standard uniforms; but new research and field reports have found this pattern to be ineffective in combat.

In 2004, the U.S. Army digitized its former camouflage pattern on standard issue uniforms. It was termed “Universal Camouflage Pattern,” or UCP, with the hope that it would serve as a one-print-fits-all for any environment. The theory behind the digital print was not the result of a fashion craze; it started in the late 1970s with two psychology professors at West Point. Neuroscientists divided the human visual system into two parallel circuits. One circuit told us where objects were located, the other what objects were. Officially called the “Dual Texture Gradient,” the idea was that the pixelated pattern would interfere with those circuits and make it difficult to identify objects. More research, based on how our brains processed MRI scans as boxes and rectangles, led camouflage experts to similar conclusions, that this pattern was smart camo. Initially, the Marines adopted the pattern from the Canadians. However, the pattern failed early trials in the U.S. Army, and troops reported that it performed poorly in combat.

In 2009, after a camo detection study, the Army revised the design for ground troops in Afghanistan to the current “MultiCam” pattern as a temporary solution. Currently, four designs from non-government vendors are in a bid to become the next camo pattern. Submissions required that designs include a woodland variant, a desert variant, and a transitional variant for every environment in between. The goal of extensive field tests will be to optimize performance range from 35-400 meters in a woodland environment and 35-500 meters in a transitional and desert environment. Testing of the first pattern, which resembles reptile skin, began in June. Testing of the other patterns could last up to nine months, and production of the new uniforms could begin as early as 2013.

TBI Pocket Guide from DCoE

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Traumatic brain injury can be a serious invisible injury. The DCoE provides helpful information about symptoms and treatment.

You’ve probably heard of TBI—the acronym for traumatic brain injury. The Defense Centers of Excellence defines a traumatic brain injury as “a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain.” TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, with 80-90% being mild. The symptoms, treatments, and recovery time are different for mild versus moderate-to-severe TBIs.

Common symptoms associated with TBI are:

Physical: headache, sleep disturbances, dizziness, balance problems, nausea/vomiting, fatigue, visual disturbances, sensitivity to light, ringing in the ears

Cognitive: slowed thinking, poor concentration, memory problems, difficulty finding words

Emotional: anxiety, depression, irritability, mood swings

For more information, including strategies and suggestions for rehabilitation, check out DCoE’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Pocket Guide for Warfighters. TBI is a serious physical as well as mental injury, so it is important to consult a health professional before attempting any kind of treatment.

It’s never too late to quit

Are you a smoker, but you’re trying to quit? Have you smoked for so long that you don’t see the point in quitting? Well new research has found that it’s never too late to kick an old habit.

Tobacco use, especially in the military, is still an important health issue in this country. While the negative effects of tobacco use have been well documented, what you may not know is that there’s also a lot research about what happens when you quit smoking—and the news is good, especially if living longer is something you care about. Scientists have compiled information from these studies and have found that it’s never too late to quit, even if you have been a lifetime smoker. The military is committed to keeping its past and present service members ready and resilient. Check out HPRC’s article “Tobacco in the military: Be a quitter!” Live longer and better. Consider quitting, starting today!

Getting fit? There’s an app for that.

With more than 91.4 million smartphones in the U.S., applications might be the answer to get people off the couch and moving. Finding the right one, however, can be a challenge.

There are any number of excuses for not exercising or counting calories, but not having the ability to track your progress and have it with you at all times is a dwindling one. Smartphone physical activity applications (SPAA) are growing in popularity and making it easy for users to receive information regarding their fitness and nutrition. Finding the right one for you—among thousands—may take some legwork, but the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) review of the different types of fitness apps can help you choose.

A recent study identified features that consumers find most valuable— apps that include goal setting and problem solving (for example, alternative exercises for when it’s raining) seem to be the most successful. Two other features that users ranked high were automatic tracking of physical activities and receiving feedback on fitness accomplishments.

A helpful application created by the Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling Series (NOFFS) is available here. Also check out HPRC’s tip on a good nutrition tracking application. Find an application that meets your needs and bring fitness with you everywhere!

Times and rhythms of sleep

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Your environment affects your sleep pattern—when you change time zones, make sure you adjust to get your best sleep at key times.

Our bodies know when to sleep thanks to “circadian rhythms,” which are regulated by our brains on a 24-hour cycle. Circadian rhythms are linked to core body temperature, so ideally you should always sleep between 0300 and 0500, when your core body temperature is lowest and your performance abilities are at their lowest. Keep in mind that your individual circadian schedule is based on where you are and takes cue from environmental factors such as the sun and from social patterns. When crossing time zones, your internal clock needs time to adjust, which can take several days. Factors that influence this adaptation are:

  • how many time zones are crossed, and
  • whether you fly eastward or westward—the former takes longer to adjust.

Keep in mind that, in order to make up sleep or to adjust to a new zone, the best times to sleep are between 0300-0500 or 1300-1500.

For tips on how to improve your quality or length of sleep check out HPRC’s Sleep Optimization section, and for information on how sleep loss impacts all of the areas of Total Fitness check out HPRC’s Overview on sleep loss.

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