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HPRC Fitness Arena: Physical Fitness
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!
Beginning on November 1st the U.S. Army will bring back the requirement to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test, including weight standards, in order to enroll in professional military education courses. Initially this requirement was waived due to the great demand for soldiers during OIF and OEF. Sgt. Todd McCaffrey states, "Reestablishing the Army physical fitness test and height/weight standards into our professional military education programs reinforces the efforts the Army's senior leaders have been emphasizing on standards based training and education." For information on how to meet these requirements, visit HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies, service-specific Physical Fitness Guides, and Policies, Standards, Reports, and Guidelines.
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.
When your body simply refuses to perform a well-learned skill, it’s called “choking.” For Warfighters, the results could be disastrous. Recent research focused on the theory that it involves a disconnection—or loss of focus—between the muscles and the part of the brain responsible for motor skills (for most people, the right side of the brain).
The study tested a small group of athletes to see if better physical performance would result from stimulating the right brain. They found that those who did so—by squeezing a ball with the left hand to stimulate the right brain before a high-pressure situation—performed better than those who squeezed a ball with the right hand or not at all and almost as well as in a low-pressure situation. Although more work is needed to verify the concept, it is something you can try on your own.
Body armor, in addition to necessary equipment and supplies, well exceeds the recommended carrying maximum of 50 pounds. The DoD was asked by Congress to conduct a research project to explore the possibility of lightening body armor without sacrificing protection. Currently, the research shows it does not seem possible to make body armor out of a lighter material while still adequately protecting the individual. However, leaders are taking a more preventative approach to reducing injuries on the battlefield. These include changes in pre-deployment training, as well as an increased number of deployed physical and occupational therapists and improvements in forward-deployed care centers.
Having a strong ”core”—a common term for the muscles of your abdomen, hips, glutes, back, and quads—can improve your balance, posture, and performance. There are a number of different core exercises other than the traditional sit-up that can give you these benefits and decrease your risk for injury. Back injuries are the most common reason for lost duty days in the military and are sometimes the result of a weak core. Strengthening the whole core muscle group is important and can be achieved through alternative core exercises. Test out new exercises to see what you enjoy!
Check out our Performance Strategies for more ideas on alternative methods to strengthen your core.
Having something to keep children’s minds and bodies busy can make time pass faster and give them a sense of pride while their mom or dad is away. There are various organizations to help support children of deployed parents and keep them active and involved in their community. The U.S. Army has Operation Military Kid, which connects families to local resources to achieve a sense of community. Our Military Kids specifically reaches out to dependents of the National Guard, reservists, and active-duty wounded warriors. The Department of Defense has a new campaign, Operation Live Well, which includes resources to keep military children active and resilient during their guardian’s deployments. There are also numerous non-profit organizations that offer programming for military children—check out the National Resource Directory section for children’s programs near you.
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.
Chubby cheeks on little ones are cute, but you want your child to outgrow them. The number of obese and overweight children has almost tripled since 1980, resulting in an increase in cardiovascular disease and other health issues—a trend reflected in the body-fat condition of today’s military trainees. Doing activities as a family not only gets kids moving, but also gets you moving! Children need at least 60 minutes a day of play involving moderate to vigorous exercise. This can be done throughout the day— at recess, during after school activities, playing at home—and doesn’t have to be done all at once. Let’s Move! has a list of simple steps you can do to encourage your child to live a healthy lifestyle. One idea: Have a house rule of doing jumping jacks during television commercials. For even more ideas, check out the CDC’s Strategies and Solutions for parents and communities.
CHAMP and HPRC hosted a conference in conjunction with American College of Sports Medicine and National Academy of Sports Medicine 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.” For more information about the conference, check out HPRC’s Summary Report. For a brief explanation of functional movement assessment, read HPRC’s Overview about one form, FMS.