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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

Try calisthenics to improve strength

Calisthenics may help improve your strength.

Calisthenics have long been a basic component of Warfighter training to increase strength. They require minimal equipment and space and can be done virtually anywhere. Common calisthenic exercises include push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, dips, and squats. They help develop and maintain muscle strength, endurance, and power as well as flexibility. There are many ways to customize a calisthenic routine to achieve a specific fitness goal. For example, performing a low number of repetitions with added resistance will effectively increase muscle strength. Training with a buddy is a great way to provide resistance. Muscle endurance, on the other hand, requires a routine with a lot of repetitions. It’s recommended to include two calisthenic sessions each week on nonconsecutive days, along with other forms of physical training (e.g., plyometrics, strength training, or aerobic training). A 30-minute calisthenic session should consist of one to three exercises that involve multiple muscle groups.

For more detailed information on calisthenics, go to Chapter 8 of The Navy SEAL Physical Fitness Guide.

Keys to building family resilience

A new RAND report points out key resilience-building features that families can use.

RAND Corporation recently published a report that evaluates studies and programs that promote resilience in the military. The findings by RAND’s military health research group include practices that promote resilience in military families. Below are a few points that can help your family to build resilience together.

  • Emotional ties. Bonding time helps family members become closer to one another emotionally. Shared recreation and leisure time could help tighten family bonds.
  • Communication. The ability of family members to exchange thoughts, opinions, and information is an essential step in solving problems and helping relationships thrive.
  • Support. Knowing that comfort and support are readily available within a family allows members to lean on each other during good and bad times.
  • Adaptability. Families that adapt to the changes inherent in military life are more likely to weather challenges together. Allowing some flexibility in family roles may help smooth transitions.

You can download a summary or the full report of “Promoting Psychological Resilience in the U.S. Military” from RAND’s website. RAND’s research was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. For even more information on family resilience-building skills, visit HPRC's Family Skills section.

The ideal nap length?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Didn’t get enough sleep last night? Learn how to nap so your mind can perform at its best.

Misinformation abounds regarding ideal nap lengths for optimal cognitive performance. You need sleep to function at your best. If you do not get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night, then napping can help. Learn more in HPRC’s Answer, “Nap to be at Your Best Mentally.”

Get FITT to optimize muscle strength

Optimize your muscle strength and endurance by following the FITT principle.

Muscle strength is an essential component for successful Warfighter performance. Developing optimal muscle strength and endurance maximizes job performance and reduces risk of injury. The FITT principle can help you achieve this goal. FITT refers to “frequency, intensity, time (or duration), and type” of activity.

  • Frequency is the number of sessions in a week that an individual trains. At least two days per week of strength training is recommended.
  • Intensity, considered the most important aspect of strength and endurance conditioning, is defined by the amount of weight used per repetition. For muscle endurance, training should involve 20-60 repetitions of 30% to 50% of one repetition max (1RM; the maximum amount of weight one can lift for one repetition) per set. For muscle strength, training should involve 1-12 repetitions of 65% to 90% of 1RM per set.
  • Time of sessions should range from 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Type of exercise should vary in strength and conditioning routines to prevent boredom and improve gains. A combination of free weights and machines is recommended.

For more detailed information on strength training, read Chapter 6, Strength Training, of The Navy SEAL Physical Fitness Guide.

The effect of combat on communication

Combat is stressful. Here are some tips that can help you overcome the impact of combat on your relationships.

Being in combat is physically, emotionally, and mentally stressful. Part of the body's natural stress response is to remain on high alert in order to have a better chance of staying alive. This can lower your tolerance for relationship disagreements and can cause irritability and conflict. The following are some tips to help you overcome the effects of combat on your interactions with loved ones:

  • Practice emotion management strategies prior to and after communicating with your loved ones to help you calm down first.
  • If you are upset, wait to communicate with your loved ones rather than writing or saying something in the heat of the moment.
  • Describe your feelings and thoughts starting with "I.” I-statements are more personal and reduce feelings of blame.
  • Focus on the communication interaction between you and your partner, not just on the way that one or the other of you communicates.
  • Compliment each other!

New report focuses on psychological resilience within the U.S. military

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
The RAND Corporation has released a report identifying factors that promote mental resilience within the U.S. military.

A new DoD-sponsored report titled Promoting Psychological Resilience in the U.S. Military has been released by RAND Corporation and is available in full-text print and downloadable pdf formats. The RAND National Defense Research Institute (RAND NDRI) conducted a focused literature review to identify individual, family, unit and community-level factors for promoting psychological resilience. The study also included a review of resilience programs.

The full report can be downloaded from the RAND website.

HPRC's year in review

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
HPRC has had a banner year developing its “one-stop shop” to help our Warfighters achieve Total Force Fitness through Human Performance Optimization.

What has the Human Performance Resource Center (HPRC) been doing this past year to make our Warfighters safer? A lot! HPRC has a number of missions, but the most important one—and the one that all of HPRC’s other tasks support—is to provide evidence-based information on Human Performance Optimization (HPO). HPO involves giving our Warfighters the training and information they need to effectively carry out their missions in any environment, with the resilience to avoid injury and illness and the ability to recover quickly if injured or ill. As it turns out, HPO embodies all the domains of Total Force Fitness (TFF)—physical fitness, nutrition, dietary supplements, extreme environments, family/social issues, and psychological fitness—that ADM Mullen is asking the services to embrace.

Some of the accomplishments of HPRC this year are:

  1. Responding to questions from the field (mostly from Warfighters and providers) at the average rate of one per day and growing. These questions cover topics such as proper hydration, dietary supplement use, sleep requirements, managing altitude sickness, how to beat heat illness, and fitness fueling. Every question answered has the potential of protecting our Warfighters from inaccurate commercial information and harmful practices and of increasing their resilience.
  2. Overseeing a workgroup of subject matter experts (SMEs) who developed a white paper on High-Intensity Training that helps put in perspective the information available on these popular training programs. A scientific paper will be published in the near future.
  3. Overseeing the workgroup of SMEs who are developing the concept of Total Force Fitness for ADM Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  4. Developing and expanding a website that is now servicing more than a thousand people a week by supplying needed information on HPO and TFF.
  5. Supplying “healthy tips” to entities such as the Uniformed Services publication The Pulse and the Military Times.
  6. Partnering with multiple organizations across the services and DoD to help collaborate and coordinate efforts in HPO/TFF.

These examples provide a good snapshot of the activity level at HPRC. The staff and volunteer SMEs are working hard to make our Warfighters safer and more resilient to both physical and mental trauma. Who could ask for a better mission?

Not all sunscreens are created equal

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
The FDA is taking steps to protect and educate consumers about sun exposure and sunscreen products. Choose "broad spectrum" products for greatest protection.

Warfighters are deployed to all kinds of environments, including hot and dry conditions where sun exposure is a concern. Choosing a "broad-spectrum" product that protects against sunburn, skin cancer, and premature skin aging is important, but product labeling can be confusing. Now, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking steps to regulate the labeling of sunscreen products in order to help consumers choose a product that will protect them from sun damage to the skin.

The new measures include a regulation, effective one year from now, that requires sunscreens to undergo a standard test if they want to be labeled as a “broad spectrum” product. Those that pass the test will be allowed to use “broad spectrum” on their packaging, which indicates a product that provides protection against both ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) and ultraviolet A radiation (UVA). UVB rays are primarily responsible for sunburn, but both UVA and UVB rays are harmful and can cause sunburn, skin cancer, and premature skin aging.

Other provisions in the FDA regulation include:

  • A warning about the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging on the labels of sunscreen products that are not broad spectrum.
  • The amount of time the consumer can expect protection from a product with water resistance claims must be stated on the front label. The FDA, based on standard testing, will allow either a 40-minute or 80-minute timeframe on labels.
  • Products will no longer be allowed make a claim of “waterproof” or “sweatproof” or use the term “sunblock,” nor can they make the claim of immediate or instant protection or protection for more than two hours without reapplication.

Additional measures regarding the labeling of sunscreen products have been proposed. To learn more, view the FDA’s full article.

How families can benefit from the USDA’s switch to MyPlate

The USDA’s new MyPlate program is designed to make learning about and practicing healthy eating habits more appealing and more fun for all members of the family.

The USDA announced on June 2, 2011, that its classic food guide Pyramid is being replaced with the easy-to-understand and interactive MyPlate. Using a “familiar mealtime visual,” MyPlate is intended to remind Americans about balancing meals with the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, notable changes to the new guide are the inclusion of more fruits and vegetables, less grains, and the re-categorization of oils as providing “essential nutrients” but not appearing on the plate.

The result is a simple visual graphic of a balanced meal that families can use as a tool to make sure the portions of the major food groups are covered in meals. The simplicity of the graphic helps ALL family members, especially children, become more engaged in what and how much they should be eating. An interactive plate on the MyPlate website allows users to click on each section of the plate, which then displays a page for the selected food group with description, key message, and a list with pictures of single-serving sizes of some common foods in that group. These changes allow families to easily identify what a healthy, balanced meal looks like. Also featured is an Interactive Tools section that enables users to develop personalized plans and learn about specific healthy food choices. When all family members know the basics of healthy eating, mealtime can truly be a shared event.

MyPlate can also encourage family discussions about healthy foods, which can help develop good eating habits by all members of a family. For example, you can find out if there are any particular foods that family members like or dislike, and then find and offer alternatives in the specific food group of a disliked item. This will help eliminate the likelihood that someone will skip the essential healthy components of a meal. Get everyone excited and involved during mealtime! Fun meals shared as a family can promote healthy eating habits for children that they can carry into adulthood and can reinforce family bonding.

Keep in mind that MyPlate isn’t designed as strict rule to be followed—it’s perfectly fine to have dairy products directly on the plate instead of in a cup. Desserts, which are currently placed in the “Empty Calories” section, are okay when consumed in moderation in appropriate portions. You may still have to seek out other sources for how to prepare foods in healthy ways and to determine for the nutrition content of many food items. The information on MyPlate should be used as a tool to build a foundation of knowledge about food choices and help set healthy eating goals for your family. Families should take this change as an opportunity to get the entire family involved in healthy eating.

Sleep Apnea and athletic performance

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Sleep apnea is a disorder caused by the decrease or pause in the airflow or breathing during sleep. It can lead to daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and cognitive impairment, all side effects that could negatively impact athletic performance.

NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal recently announced that he will retire from professional basketball after 19 seasons and four championship rings. In addition to that announcement, O'Neal announced via a YouTube video that he, like 12 million other Americans, had been diagnosed with sleep apnea.

According to his girlfriend, the seven-feet-tall, 300-plus-pounds center snored excessively during the night, and she noticed that his chest would often cease movement entirely. After participating in a Harvard University–sponsored sleep study, he was diagnosed with a mild case of sleep apnea and was advised to begin wearing a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) mask, a respiratory ventilation therapy that assists the wearer’s breathing while asleep. O'Neal's story has a happy ending—because of the recent diagnosis and subsequent treatment, O’Neal reports that he feels more energetic and that his overall quality of life has improved. He is also happy and comfortable with the treatment. Other professional athletes suffering from sleep apnea have not been so fortunate. In 2006, Reggie White, defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers—one of the greatest players in football history—reportedly died from causes related to sleep apnea.

What exactly is sleep apnea? And how does it affect athletic performance? People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, there are three types of apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Of the three types, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. Weight can contribute to sleep apnea. In 2009, a study by Sweden's Karolinska Institute showed that overweight and obese men who lost weight during a calorie-restricted diet over nine weeks had major improvements in their sleep apnea symptoms.

Other risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include certain physical attributes, such as having a thick neck (which describes many athlete body types), deviated septum, receding chin, and enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Allergies or other medical conditions that cause nasal congestion and blockage can also contribute to sleep apnea.

Signs of sleep apnea include loud and chronic snoring, choking, snorting, or gasping during sleep, long pauses in breathing, and daytime sleepiness regardless of how much time you spend sleeping. Other common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat, morning headaches, restless or fitful sleep, insomnia or nighttime awakenings, going to the bathroom frequently during the night, waking up feeling out of breath, forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating, moodiness, irritability, or depression.

Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Moreover, left untreated, it may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes.

In terms of athletic/sports performance, sleep apnea is a major concern because sleep apnea causes a disruption to healthy sleep patterns, which in turn can affect physical performance. According to a 2007 Stanford University study of sleep and athletic performance, athletes who extend the amount of sleep they get and reduce their sleep debt are more likely to improve their performance. Conversely, if an athlete does not get a good night’s sleep, then the next day he/she is tired, sleepy, or irritable. In such cases, physical performance also is impaired, since there is limited energy reserve due to the lack of adequate or good-quality sleep.  Sleep apnea not only has an impact on athletes—it affects the military, as well.

So what can you do if you suspect that you or your sleep partner has sleep apnea? The only way to be sure is to undergo a sleep test, which is done in a sleep lab where patients sleep in a special bedroom with electrodes and other sensors attached to various parts of the body. There, you will be monitored throughout the night to keep track of whether and how often you stop breathing, how low your O2 sat (oxygen saturation) goes, and what your brainwaves are doing while you're sleeping.

For additional resources on sleep and sleep apnea, please visit the following:

American Sleep Apnea Association

National Sleep Foundation

How Much Sleep does a Warfighter Need?

National Center on Sleep Disorders Research

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