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Recovery after exercise—it does a body good

Your workout doesn’t end with the last rep or quarter-mile sprint. Proper recovery after exercise is just as important as the exercise itself to stay fit, healthy, and injury-free.

In the military, physical activity is probably part of your daily routine, but do you also have a post-workout strategy? Good recovery is just as important as the workout itself. “Recovery” can mean what you do—or don’t do—right after exercise. It also can mean taking a day off from working out altogether. Either way, it’s a critical component of your overall fitness program that can help prevent injuries.

First, it’s important to rehydrate and refuel after exercise to replace the fluids and nutrients lost during exercise, heal damaged muscles, and build more muscle. A combination of protein and carbs are the key for recovery. Some suggestions for post-exercise snacks are:

  • Low-fat yogurt with fruit
  • Trail mix
  • Turkey wrap
  • PB&J sandwich
  • Chocolate milk (For more information about chocolate milk as a recovery snack, see HPRC’s Healthy Tip.)

Sometimes, after a particularly hard workout, you need a day of rest with no exercise. Listen to your body. If you have some lingering aches and pains that could worsen with exercise, take a day off. Sleep and rest are also important for proper recovery, staying fit and healthy, and achieving overall readiness and resilience. Make sure you get all the important components of your exercise routine in order to achieve peak fitness and keep injuries at bay.

Too cold for exercise?

Don’t let cold weather deter you from your fitness goals.

As winter approaches here in the northern hemisphere, staying active requires more planning to be safe and comfortable. Here are some tips for exercising in cold weather conditions:

  • Since medical conditions such as Raynaud’s, cardiovascular disease, and asthma can be exacerbated by climate changes, be sure to check with your doctor before exercising in the cold.
  • Check out these tips from the Mayo Clinic, which include dressing in layers that include a synthetic material such as polyester or polypropylene close to the skin (avoid cotton, since it soaks up the sweat!) and paying close attention to your extremities, especially your fingers and toes, since the circulation to these areas decreases in cold weather.
  • The American College of Sports Medicine also has a Position Stand on preventing cold-weather injuries during exercise that emphasizes being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite, as well as monitoring wind-chill temperature. The signs and symptoms of hypothermia can vary, but in general watch for feeling cold, shivering, apathy, and social withdrawal. Also watch for the early stages of frostbite (which precede the deep frostbite that can cause major tissue damage) in which you’ll feel burning, numbness, tingling, itching, or cold sensations.

If you pay attention to these guidelines, you can continue to stay fit all winter long.

When it comes to performance—you booze, you lose

Going out for a drink to celebrate after a long race or a tough workout may be good for the soul, but it’s bad for performance.

Before you reach for a cold one, consider that drinking alcohol before, during, or after exercise can be detrimental to your performance, especially when consumed in excess. The effect of alcohol on skeletal muscles has been found to decrease strength output and can cause muscle cramps, pain, and loss of proprioception. Alcohol can also negatively affect your metabolism during exercise and contribute to dehydration. There is a shortage of data on the effects of alcohol on a recovering athlete, but some studies have shown that alcohol slows the recovery process by impacting muscle growth and repair systems. While current research has shown that alcohol in moderation can have other health benefits, it may be better to save that drink for when your physical performance is not on the line. There is also a growing body of research investigating the effects of combining alcohol with energy drinks. Many energy drinks contain substances and supplements that can interfere with normal alcohol metabolism and impair judgment. Be a conscious consumer and know what kinds of ingredients may be risky for your health.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has now been launched to answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Visit the OPSS section of HPRC’s website now to learn more!

Energy drinks and adolescents

Energy drink use by adolescents is on the rise, and misuse of these beverages may stem from confusion about using energy drinks for rehydration.

Energy drinks are marketed to improve physical and mental performance, mainly to “boost energy.” Adolescents are getting hold of energy drinks more often, in part due to heavy marketing of sports drinks with athletic superstars, causing adolescents to confuse energy drinks for sports drinks. Energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, while sports drinks contain carbohydrates and electrolytes and are intended for use when athletes (including adolescents) are engaged in prolonged, vigorous exercise. Adolescents have already had problems combining energy drinks and alcohol, which has led to risky behavior. The American Academy of Pediatrics has guidelines for the use of energy drinks and sports drinks by adolescents.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has now been launched to answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Visit the OPSS section of HPRC’s website now to learn more!

Keep fit to reduce your risk of breast cancer

Exercise is beneficial for women in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. A new study finds that it’s never too late to start exercising to reduce your risk.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month and Military Health’s Women’s Health Awareness Month. The international pink ribbon symbol represents a community dedicated to awareness and prevention of breast cancer, a disease that mostly affects women. According the National Cancer Institute, there were over 220,000 new diagnoses of breast cancer in 2012 and more than 39,000 related deaths in the U.S. This puts breast cancer as the nation’s second leading cause of death among women (after heart disease).

What can you do to reduce your risk? A new study of more than 3,000 women found that those who exercised 10-19 hours a week during their reproductive years lowered their risk of getting breast cancer after menopause by one third. Women who started exercising after the onset of menopause also lowered their risk by about 30% with 9-17 hours of exercise per week. Researchers concluded that women can reduce their risk for breast cancer through a physically active lifestyle. The link between exercise and breast cancer is not fully understood, and research continues, but if ever you needed a good reason to start exercising or keep exercising, this is a good one. You can learn more about breast cancer and other women’s issues on the Women’s Health page of health.mil.

In conjunction with the DoD campaign, Operation Live Well, HPRC will be highlighting important issues related to both military and family health.

Happy trails to you!

Take advantage of the beautiful outdoors and take your family for a hike or run along a trail.

Exercising outdoors can be a fun way to get in shape, enjoy the beautiful weather and do something fun as a family. No gym or equipment is necessary for a run on a trail, bike ride, or hike—and the scenery is much better! Kids can use their scooter, skateboard, or bike to keep up with mom and/or dad. You can even include strength exercises during your outside adventure! A playground or park can be a great destination for some exercise with children. Monkey bars, park benches, and other fixtures found at playgrounds can be used for pull-ups, tricep dips, and core exercises. Here are some additional suggestions from HPRC on exercising without a gym or equipment. And before you step outside, check out these tips if you plan on hiking or running on a trail.

CHAMP and HPRC host a conference on functional movement assessment

CHAMP and HPRC are hosting a conference in conjunction with ACSM and NASM on September 10–11, 2012, on “Preventing Injury through Functional Movement Assessment: What We Know, What We Don’t Know, and Where We Go From Here.”

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is a tool used to evaluate how people move and identify patterns that could increase the risk of being injured. In a 2011 study conducted by the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP), researchers found that FMS scores indicated an individual’s risk for injury. A summary of the most current information published on functional movement assessment demonstrates that the FMS is a reliable tool but that more research is needed. The upcoming CHAMP/HPRC conference will explore the role of functional movement assessment in preventing injury and enabling Warfighters to return to duty quickly, and will highlight areas for future research. Topics focus on the Warrior Athlete and civilian athletic communities, and include the epidemiology of musculoskeletal injuries, functional fitness and movement patterns, and current concepts in, as well as future research considerations for functional assessment tools.

Don’t light up—lace up!

There are many tools and resources to keep you on track when you’re trying to quit smoking. One weapon in your arsenal is exercise.

Congratulations—you’ve decided to quit smoking! This is the first step toward a healthier and longer life. It may be difficult at first, and you may have cravings along the way, but stay strong and don’t give in. One way to fight those urges is exercise. Numerous studies have found that exercise and physical activity reduce cravings for cigarettes. The quick fix for a bad craving can be as easy as walking the dog or going out for a bike ride. Not only are you replacing unhealthy behavior with healthy ones, you’re also getting fit in the process!

Get moving to help manage PTSD

Research has found that those with PTSD are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease; for some, exercise might be a great addition to other types of treatment.

The physical and emotional stress associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can raise your blood pressure and cholesterol and increase body mass index, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. Veterans suffering from PTSD are more than twice as likely to die from a heart attack than those without PTSD. While the exact relationship between PTSD and heart disease is not fully understood, we know that regular exercise can help prevent heart disease and other risk factors, which could be helpful for those with PTSD. Some types of exercise can be effective in reducing psychological symptoms associated with PTSD and also can play a role in reducing unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, being overweight, and physical inactivity—sometimes byproducts of trying to cope. If you think that exercise might help you or a loved one cope with PTSD, speak with your healthcare provider to assess how much and what kind of exercise is best!

Lack of exercise is just as bad as smoking

It’s no news that smoking is bad for your health, even deadly. But a new study found that lack of exercise can be just as fatal.

A new study published in the Lancet reports that one in 10 premature deaths worldwide is related to lack of exercise, equal to 5.3 million deaths in 2008. It seems as though inactivity has become as deadly as tobacco. More specifically, researchers estimated that lack of exercise causes about 6% of heart disease, 7% of Type 2 diabetes, and 10% of colon and breast cancers worldwide. To put this in perspective, the failure to spend 15-30 minutes a day doing activities such as brisk walking could shorten your life span by three to five years. Lack of physical activity is certainly a global epidemic, but it is also highly preventable. Check out HPRC's resources on how to get you and your family physically active.

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