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Fitness 2.0: Can social media help you get fit?

HPRC Fitness Arena:
More and more apps are supporting the goals of getting health and staying fit. Join them!

In 2008, the Journal of Medical Internet Research published an article titled Medicine 2.0: Social Networking,Collaboration, Participation, Apomediation, and Openness, in which the term “Web 2.0” is used. Web 2.0 refers to web applications that support collaboration and interactive information sharing online, a large part of which are the social media applications for blogging, wikis, and video streaming. The Journal article talks about the idea of a “Medicine 2.0” for web-based health and medical information, geared towards healthcare consumers, caregivers, patients, health professionals, and researchers.

Interestingly, all of this has given rise to a “Fitness 2.0” trend, allowing users to go beyond just the factual, static health information that exists and find more interactive information. It turns out that the internet can be a great resource for boosting one’s fitness level! YouTube, for example, has thousands of clips on exercise – proper techniques, expert advice – everything from the proper dead-lift technique to nutrition tips for weight loss.

These types of social media can also track fitness levels and goals of users by allowing them to enter in numbers and monitor their progress. Applications like Virtual Weight Loss, health networks like FitDay, and iPhone apps like “My Weight Loss Coach” are great ways to accomplish this. For an even simpler tracking method, use Twitter updates with a hash tag (i.e. #weightloss and #twit2fit) – a great way to get support while keeping a daily or weekly report of progress.

Another area where social media provides a bridge for exchanging health/medical information are online support/social communities. The sharing of experiences and struggles can help when things get tough or when motivation lags. With this level of personal interaction, users don't have to get healthy their own. Sites like Google Groups or DailyBurn, are easy ways to compare and discuss results with a community. When researching a health-related topic, however, keep in mind that blogs, videos, and social networks should not be primary sources of information. Look up multiple sources – no one source of information is ever perfect, so reduce the risk of bad information.

Social media is about creating connections and information, and healthy living is about consistency and knowledge. Together, they can be a great match. Social media can bring a lot of useful information and support to people looking to improve their health or fitness levels, and provides many innovative ways to stay motivated and well-informed.

A strong country stays fit

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Why aren't there more of us out there exercising?

Research from the Harvard School of Public Health showed many years ago that individuals who exercise regularly die less from all causes. Although vigorous exercise, like running, produces greater gains, all that’s needed for good health is regular exercise. Regular physical activity has a positive effect on all of your body systems – it improves your mood and decreases anxiety, improves cognitive function, makes you stronger, and reduces your risk for many diseases like stroke, cardiovascular disease, many types of cancer, and adult onset diabetes. Even so, public health data from the Centers for Disease Control still shows that obesity and physical inactivity among adults in our country is high.

We at the Human Performance Resource Center are not only concerned with the total fitness of our Warfighters, but of all Americans. And like in many offices across the country, we work at desks, and fitness is something we have to carve out time for. But still, we do, as one of our staff members reports.

A few weeks ago, I went running with my super-tough Airborne Army son, a jumpmaster and SSG who’s been deployed many months over the last four years. When we last ran several years ago prior to his initial boot camp experience, I could outdistance him. Fortunately, that didn’t last long – six years and many runs later, this is no longer the case. The stories abound, and are hilarious. Like when he returned from his first 15-month deployment to Iraq: I had been running a lot and wanted to impress him with what good shape I was in. We hadn’t even made it out of my neighborhood, or hit the hills yet, and I was sucking wind. At that point he looked over and said, “Hey, Ma…we walkin’ or runnin’ today?” Fast forward to our five-mile run a few weeks ago in the midday July heat. I straggled back, having taken only a couple of one-minute walk breaks to catch my breath. Of course, he beat me back, and his greeting was, “Ma, you can do better than that!” But I know that underneath the teasing, he’s proud that his 50-year old mother is out that running with him, eating his dust. My response is, “Why aren’t there more mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, sons, and daughters out here running with their Warfighter?”

So I challenge you: if we expect our Warfighters to be in optimal condition because their role, protecting our country, demands it – don’t we also have a responsibility to ourselves, our loved ones, and our country, to improve our health and reduce our healthcare costs? It doesn’t matter what you do to stay fit, only that you do something. Walk the dog, play outside with the kids, join an adult sports league, or go for a run – the possibilities are endless.

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Build strong relationships to live longer

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Good friends and family do more than make life worth living.

According to MedicineNet.com, good friends and family do more than make life worth living. These relationships may help you live longer! A recent analysis of scientific literature suggests that lack of social relationships is a risk factor for death. In other words, people with lots of close friends and family around will likely live a lot longer than lonely people. These findings show that the effect of social relationships on the risk of death are similar to those of smoking and alcohol consumption and have a profound effect on the quality of our life.

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Sitting can be harmful for your health

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Couch potatoes – read on!

An American Cancer Society study found that individuals who sit more during their leisure hours and are less active, died sooner than those who sat less and were more active. According to researchers, "sit more, die more." If you are a couch potato, stand up and walk around! Get out and walk the dog, plant some flowers, or play ball with the kids… your own or the neighbor's!

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Fluid replacement during operations or exercise

HPRC Fitness Arena:
There's a right way to replace the fluids you lose when you sweat.

If you sweat a lot during exercise, be sure to drink lots of fluids – but do not exceed 1.5 L/hour. Sip frequently rather than gulp; drinking small amounts of fluids at a time are more effective than drinking large amounts occasionally. Also, start drinking before you become thirsty. Click here for more information.

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How to help your skin survive the summer sun

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Summer sun can damage your skin.

Whether you are working out or relaxing, the summer sun can damage your skin. The American Academy of Dermotology recommends that you use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, apply 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply every two hours. Make sure to cover all of your skin and use even if it’s cloudy outside.

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Monitor your heart rate to improve your performance

HPRC Fitness Arena:

Monitoring your heart rate during exercise is an excellent way to optimize your training and improve your performance. Review this article by Medicinenet on how to make sure you are in the best training zone for your goals.

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Work out with a friend

HPRC Fitness Arena:
A little friendly competition with a friend benefits you both.

Working out with a friend can ramp up performance and help you reach your fitness goals by helping you stick to your regimen and providing a source of friendly competition. Taking a friend along for a run or other workout will help you both.  Click here for more information.

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Staying fit on a budget

HPRC Fitness Arena:
There are plenty of low-cost alternatives to expensive gyms that can help you lose weight and build muscle without breaking your budget. Read on for a few examples.

Count your steps! Get a pedometer and see if you close you can get to 10,000 steps each day.

Jump rope – it not only gets your body moving but it's also a great family activity to share.

Start a fitness group. Having a buddy and working out together is a lot of fun. You can create your own fitness groups and include fun activities such as walking, hiking, running, using exercise DVDs, and playing at the park with children.

Join a local adult recreational sports league and play sports like soccer, basketball, and softball, and make new friends, to boot.

Simple exercises like push-ups, dips, crunches, and stretches can be done in a few minutes. Set aside time every day to be active.

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Strengthen your core with a few core moves

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Improve your performance with core moves.

A strong core can enhance balance and stability and may even improve your performance. For more reasons to strengthen your core,  here are seven from the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, visit the Mayo Clinic’s slideshow for core strengthening exercises.

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