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Filed under: Physical fitness

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.

Amputee soldier reporting for duty, Sir!

More amputee soldiers are returning to active duty because of advancements in medicine, facilities, and especially techology.

The rate of amputee soldiers returning to active duty is at an all-time high. In the 1980s only about 2.3% of amputees returned to duty; the rate among Iraq/Afghanistan veterans is 16.5%. A lot of factors have contributed to this increase, but the most influential is unquestionably the advancement in technology. We now have centralized centers for amputee care that provide state-of-the-art custom rehabilitation, the most up-to-date prosthetic devices, and peer therapy. These centers enable wounded active duty members to rehabilitate together—interaction that is crucial for recovery. Rehabilitation is now specifically tailored to meet each Warfighter’s needs, and is geared towards the goals he or she has set for the future.

In order to return to active duty, a wounded warrior needs to obtain a final disposition of “fit for duty” from the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB). To do this, he or she must demonstrate a level of function with a prosthesis that exceeds basic movement skills, such as engaging in a high-impact activity typical for an active adult or athlete - i.e., box jumps or sprints. Despite the vast advances in prostheses, rehabilitation therapists mention that it’s the warrior’s drive and motivation that returns him or her to work.

The One-Rep-Max: Assessing your maximum strength

Muscular fitness is an essential component of your overall fitness. But how do you know how much weight to lift when you’re training for muscular strength or muscular endurance?

When you begin a resistance training program, how do you know how much weight you should be lifting? Most muscular fitness programs are designed around lifting a percentage of your maximum strength.

The first step in this process is to determine what your maximum strength is. A popular technique for assessing muscular strength is the one-repetition maximum test (1RM), or the maximum amount of weight you can press once but not twice. Alternatively, multiple repetition tests can be performed as a reliable estimate of maximum strength. One study found that a five- repetition test was the most accurate, but no more than 10 reps should be used to estimate strength. This instructional video will demonstrate the ACSM protocol for a 1RM test. This protocol can also be applied to a multiple-repetition test. For example, determine the maximum amount of weight you are able to lift five times, but not six times, for a five-rep max test. If you have doubts about whether this is the right test for you, be sure to consult your doctor.

The second step is to determine what percentage of your 1RM, in weight, you should use to improve your muscular strength and endurance. Typically, improvements in muscular strength are seen when using 60-80% of your 1RM. Increased muscular endurance is achieved using about 50% of your 1RM. Read more on muscular fitness and more details on how to train for each here. Once you have assessed your maximum strength, use this conversion chart from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) to determine percentages of your 1RM.

Happy lifting!

How dangerous is too much training?

Too much training with not enough down time and less-than-optimum nutrition can lead to “overtraining” needing weeks or even months of recuperation.

Getting in the best shape of your life requires you to push your training regime to the limit. However, without appropriate rest periods and diet, this can lead to serious conditions known as “non-functional overreaching” (NFO) and “overtraining syndrome” (OTS). What occurs is that your performance begins to decline, even though you are training as hard as ever, and you start to feel tired and “stale.” Read HPRC’s Overview “Overtraining—what happens when you do too much” to learn about the serious implications of these conditions for Warfighters.

Runners’ trots


There’s a phenomenon runners sometimes experience that’s commonly called “runners’ trots” – otherwise known as diarrhea – that has risk factors and that can possibly be avoided. Although the “trots” usually don’t last long and are generally nothing to worry about, they certainly can be a major annoyance, causing lost time in training or competition and even embarrassment if there is literally “nowhere to go.”

The most common risk factors cited are for those who are young, female, susceptible to irritable bowel syndrome, or lactose intolerant, as well as those who have had a previous abdominal surgery. The things we do to our bodies that reportedly increase risk are high-intensity exercise, dehydration, vertical-impact sports (e.g., running vs. biking), poor conditioning, medication, and diet. Although these are stated in the medical literature as risk factors, a recent study published in the International Sportmed Journal examined the evidence behind each of these risks to see if they hold up under scrutiny – and there’s surprisingly little evidence to support many of the statements about risk factors for developing “runners’ trots.” Most of the evidence was limited and relied on either single studies or multiple studies with varying results but a tendency toward supporting the conclusion.

Here are the conclusions of this evidence-based study:

The only strongly supported evidence was for dehydration to increase the risk of diarrhea. Female gender, younger age, high-intensity training, vertical impact, and medication had limited support and could go either way. Finally irritable bowel, lactose intolerance, previous abdominal surgery, poor conditioning, and dietary factors had very weak support. Keep in mind that little or no evidence does not make something true or false; it just means we have insufficient scientific evidence for any assumption.

So, based on the studies, how can you avoid “runners’ trots?”

  1. The evidence certainly supports staying well hydrated so that the bowel gets an adequate blood supply.

Even though the evidence for doing some things is not strong, they make sense and are not harmful. These include:

  1. Avoid a large meal 3-6 hours prior to running.
  2. Avoid food or drinks that have non-absorbable sweeteners (such as sorbital or sucralose), caffeine, and/or a high fat content.
  3. Don’t ingest concentrated carbohydrates (high glycemic index) before running.
  4. Be aware that energy bars and gels may contribute to the “trots” for some people.
  5. Avoid taking anti-diarrheal medications such as loperamide (e.g., Imodium) or Lomotil, since they can affect the ability of the body to tolerate heat.
  6. Wear loose-fitting clothing to reduce irritation.
  7. If symptoms persist for more than a few days, seek medical attention to be sure there is not an underlying cause.

    Enjoy your run!

    Physical activity can boost quality sleep

    A new study suggests that exercising at least 150 minutes a week can help people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day.

    Besides keeping you healthy and fit, exercise has another important benefit. According to a news release from Oregon State University, a study conducted on more than 2,600 men and women between ages 18 to 85 found that individuals who exercise for 150 minutes a week at a moderate to vigorous level experience a 65% improvement in sleep quality. In addition, active people experienced less daytime sleepiness than those who are inactive. These findings appeared to be across the board—subjects experienced better sleep regardless of age, weight, and other health habits. For many, regular physical activity can be an effective, non-pharmaceutical alternative to improving sleep and concentration levels during waking hours.

    The study, which was published in the December 2011 issue of Mental Health and Physical Activity, adds more evidence to the amazing body of research that demonstrates the importance of exercise for overall health.

    Running to exercise

    Running is one of the easiest forms of aerobic exercise, which strengthens your heart and improves your overall health.

    Running is a great exercise to help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Running improves your cardiovascular system by strengthening your heart muscle and improving your circulation. As your heart muscle becomes stronger, your heart can pump more blood more easily. This helps deliver more oxygen to fuel your working muscles and remove byproducts such as carbon dioxide.

    Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

    This martial art relies on technique and balance to overcome an opponent, but it will also tone and build muscle without the use of weights.

    Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu—or BJJ—focuses on ground fighting techniques, also known as grappling. You can start your training at a level appropriate to your physical fitness, but ultimately you will find that your endurance increases as your opponent also learns the techniques designed to dominate. Although BJJ requires little to no physical strength—mainly technique and balance—you will find that your muscle tone and mass increase gradually without requiring weight training.

    Swim to stay healthy

    Swimming is not only one of the best total-body exercise forms, it can also help you avoid getting sick. Take the plunge!

    Swimming is an excellent way to reduce the risk of disease. It works your entire body and activates all the major muscle groups; contributes to muscle strength, flexibility, posture, and endurance; promotes weight loss and stress reduction; and improves cardiovascular conditioning by lowering your resting heart and respiratory rates and making blood flow to the heart and lungs more efficient. Swimming is also very low risk for injury because it places stress on your bones, joints, and connective tissues, thanks to the buoyancy of the water. Swimming 15 to 30 minutes each day can have a very positive effect on your overall health.

    Be specific about your training

    You will get the best results from your training program if you tailor it to fit your personal goals and activities.

    When training, an athlete should be specific about methods of training that meet the needs of the activity he or she is training for. To achieve an optimal performance level, a sprinter will train in a different way than, for example, an endurance athlete such as a marathon runner. Make sure that you “stress the physiological systems” right for your type of activity. In other words, if you are going to compete in a race, you need to run to become a better runner. Likewise, if you are going to compete in a cycling or swimming event, you must perform those exercises to become better. Wanna be a better tennis player?  Play tennis! Although a well rounded program that includes strength training, aerobic conditioning, and flexibility exercises will improve your general fitness, to improve at a specific activity or sport you must perform that particular exercise.

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