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
If your lower back hurts now and then, or if you struggle with ongoing pain in this area, consider yoga to help relieve the physical and mental discomfort. Lower-back pain is common, but the good news is that the pain usually goes away pretty quickly without specific treatment for most people. For others, though, lower-back pain is chronic. Practicing yoga and yoga stretches can be a great short-term way to reduce the length, intensity, and frequency of lower-back pain. For some people, yoga can even reduce this pain in the long term. And what we know so far suggests there aren’t likely to be serious negative effects of using yoga for lower-back pain.
Yoga typically includes three parts. First, breathing retraining to help calm and focus your body and mind. Second, yoga can increase your flexibility, coordination, and strength. Lastly, meditation exercises can help you develop greater self-awareness, lower your stress levels, and improve your mood.
Yoga isn’t a replacement for seeing your doctor or talking to a healthcare provider about your pain. If you have a medical condition, consult your healthcare provider before you start doing yoga. Also, everyone’s body is different, but yoga can be modified based on your body structure and how your body is feeling. There is no such thing as “perfect form.” The best practice is what you commit to doing in that moment.
Wondering how to get started? HPRC’s Mindful Stretching Exercises Using Yoga Poses will walk you through some basic yoga stretches.
Mindfulness meditation can help service members learn to focus on the present, heal from injury, and/or improve their performance. It’s a popular technique in which you clear your mind of clutter and simply notice thoughts, sensations, emotions, or distractions by focusing attention on a specific target such as breathing. During this process, you consistently (and gently) guide your attention back to a present moment and focus on your target, with an attitude of acceptance and non-judgment. This attitude extends into treating yourself with compassion, rather than judgment. “Mindfulness meditation” and “mindfulness” are often used interchangeably, but mindfulness meditation refers to a technique, whereas mindfulness refers to any process of bringing mindful awareness into daily life. Practicing mindfulness meditation regularly can help you become more mindful in general. Read more...
While there has been some discussion about whether adults should drink milk, most reliable scientific evidence shows that drinking milk offers many benefits. There are some important facts to consider when deciding whether to include milk in your meal plan.
- Milk contains calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Most Americans don’t consume enough of these 3 essential nutrients, especially those who don’t drink milk. These all-important nutrients are necessary for bone growth, most of which takes place by the age of 18. However, they’re also needed to maintain bone as you age.
- It’s low-calorie! If your goal is weight maintenance or weight loss, fat-free (skim) and no-added-sugar flavored choices contain relatively few calories. And they’re rich in nutrients.
- Digestion problems? If you’re lactose intolerant, lactose-free milk and fortified soy milk are great alternatives.
- Chocolate milk makes an excellent post-workout beverage. It helps with refueling because it contains protein to rebuild muscles and carbohydrates to replenish energy stores.
The jury’s still out on whether milk-fat content matters, so follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendations on consuming low-fat and/or fat-free choices. And stay within the New Dietary Guidelines for Americans' recommendations for 3 daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods for anyone 9 and older. If you like milk, keep drinking it.
The Food and Drug Administration recently announced that methylsynephrine (also known as oxilofrine) “does not meet the statutory definition of a dietary supplement ingredient.” So what does this mean? Products containing methylsynephrine are adulterated and can’t be marketed legally as dietary supplements. Methylsynephrine is also prohibited in sport because it’s a pharmaceutical drug (not currently approved in the U.S) and a stimulant that increases blood pressure and affects heart rate. What’s more, some supplements have been found to contain methylsynephrine in amounts equal to or greater than pharmaceutical doses.
The consequences of taking methylsynephrine in large amounts or in combination with other stimulants aren’t entirely known, but one product containing this ingredient and other stimulants has been linked to nausea, vomiting, agitation, increased heart rate, chest pain, and cardiac arrest. If you’re considering taking a dietary supplement with methylsynephrine or oxilofrine on the label, you might want to think twice. For more from FDA, please see “Methylsynephrine in Dietary Supplements.”
April is Sexual Assault Prevention Month. One essential step to prevent misconduct or missteps with your sexual partners is to openly and clearly obtain consent. What is it? Consent is spoken permission to continue moving forward with the sexual experience. Consent is an enthusiastic, verbally expressed “Yes! I want what is happening to keep happening!” Verbal consent is important because it’s unmistakable.
If you’re not sure how to ask for consent, consider some of the following:
- Can I kiss you?
- Is this okay?
- Are you enjoying yourself?
- Do you want me to keep going?
- How far should we go?
A positive verbal answer to any of these questions—“Yes!” “Yes please.” “Keep going.”—is consent, meaning you’re both on the same page about the sexual experience. In addition to asking for verbal confirmation, get in tune with your partner’s body language. Is he or she making eye contact and responding to your gestures?
In some situations, an individual isn’t able to consent to sex, such as when drugs or alcohol are involved. They impact decision-making and impulse control.
Also remember that lack of a “No” doesn’t mean consent. When a person feels in danger, he or she might become immobilized with fear and not actively resist or say no. Don’t mistake absence of resistance for consent.
You must obtained consent with each and every sexual encounter, regardless of your sexual history with your partner. Everyone is entitled to a change of mind, so it’s important to keep checking in with each other throughout the whole experience.
The DoD Safe Helpline is available 24/7 as a free, anonymous, confidential sexual assault resource for the DoD community. You can call, text, or chat with Helpline members. They will answer your questions and connect you with resources.
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...
Your children and adolescents could benefit in many ways if your family eats at least 3 meals a week together. Dinnertime usually works best with family schedules, but other mealtimes work as well. Keep the following in mind when you sit down together at your next meal.
- Children and adolescents eat healthier. When kids eat with their families, they usually consume more fruits and vegetables. Kids also take in more fiber, calcium, and iron. And they drink fewer sodas and eat less saturated fats.
- Healthy habits have staying power. Adolescents who share in more family meals tend to eat healthier after they leave the nest, so this tradition can have lasting importance.
- Eating and talking together enables parents to tune into their kids’ needs. You might learn valuable information about your children’s friends, school, and interests—heading off any potential problems. They could also learn your thoughts on current events, healthy behaviors, and what matters to your family.
Sometimes parents feel that the task of putting meals together is too cumbersome. Meals can be quick and simple. They don’t have to be organic, costly, or even perfect. Simply being together around a shared table and eating a nutritious meal can do wonders for a family. Want a bit of encouragement? The majority of teens actually enjoy eating dinner at home with their families!
Financial stresses are real and affect many service members. Sometimes stress can explode into bigger problems if you use drugs or alcohol as a means to cope or if you take out your frustrations on your spouse. How you perceive your stressor has a big impact on how stressful your situation feels. You can always choose how to react.
For instance, as you get your tax information together, you might realize you won’t be able to afford that new car or move into that new apartment, after all. You might think, “I’m a failure,” or “My spouse screwed up.” Such thoughts place blame on yourself or your spouse and stir up feelings of shame and/or anger. If you let these feelings drive your behaviors, you could make matters worse. Not dealing with your shame well enough could lead to negative coping behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol. Not effectively managing your anger might lead to ugly arguments with your spouse.
Rather than playing the blame game, it might be more constructive to think, “We didn’t save enough this year, but we’ll make some adjustments and still meet our long-term goals.” Yes, you’ll feel disappointed, but you’ll also feel optimistic and ready to make those much-needed changes.
To learn more on how to take charge of your thoughts, or accept them and let them pass, check out HPRC’s tips on positive thinking. And use the Mind-Body ABCs Worksheet to help increase your awareness, plan better outcomes, and improve your performance—financial and otherwise! Also, Military OneSource offers financial management services to help you plan a budget, do your taxes, and more.
Most dietary supplement products are marketed for adults 18 and older and typically carry a warning on the label against use by those under 18. That’s because there has been little to no reliable research done on the use of dietary supplements—especially those marketed for bodybuilding and performance enhancement—by people under the age of 18. As such, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) strongly opposes the use of dietary supplements by high school athletes to gain a competitive advantage.
Whether you’re a teen athlete, parent, coach, or healthcare provider, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Teens: Achieving your athletic goals means hard work. Taking shortcuts with dietary supplements can be harmful to your health and have a negative effect on your future athletic ambitions. Watch HPRC’s video below to learn about one college athlete’s experience.
Parents and coaches: Talk often with your athletes about dietary supplements, and encourage them to eat whole foods to fuel their bodies. Download HPRC’s “Fueling the adolescent athlete,” which has helpful suggestions for hydrating and for eating between workouts.
Healthcare providers: Use the OPSS Guidelines to ask about supplement use as part of taking a comprehensive dietary supplement history. Counsel athletes and their parents about the risks involved with using dietary supplements and other performance-enhancing substances. Promote proper nutrition, training, and rest to improve performance.
Remember, teens (and adults) can get all the nutrients their bodies need by eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Teens and adults don’t need supplements unless a doctor determines it’s needed to treat deficiency of a particular nutrient.
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.