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: Physical Fitness
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.
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!
Photo: Blake Cable
The USA Track and Field (USATF), the National Governing Body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States has released a study to determine the effect of pre-run stretching on running injuries. The purpose of the study was to determine specifically if pre-run stretching of the three major leg muscle groups is beneficial for overall injury prevention or reduction.
According to the study, this was a clinical trial that involved close to 3,000 runners and the results confirm there is no difference in the risk of injury for those who stretched before running and those who did not. The study randomly assigned people to perform a specified pre-run stretching routine or to perform no pre-run stretching for a period of 3 months.
The number of hours a person spends pumping iron may make it easier to get back into shape and could also stave off weakness and decline of muscle function in old age. That's according to findings recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR), Kristian Gundersen , one of the researchers of this study explains that muscles actually have a memory of their former strength — and that memory may last indefinitely. The article can be accessed here.
Despite widespread access to internet-based healthcare information, there’s almost a complete lack of evidence showing any effects all this information may have on health outcomes. According to a study published in Health Expectations, this indicates that there’s a disparity between the health information we find online and our ability to use it properly.
So, with as much information as there is on the internet, how can we, as consumers, find reputable sources for our health questions? The internet can be a great resource when you want to learn about a specific disease or health condition. You can also find tips on staying healthy. But among the millions of websites that offer health-related information, many present myths and half-truths as if they are facts.
To avoid unreliable health information when you’re surfing the internet, use these tips to find reliable information:
- Keep in mind that anyone can publish anything they want on the internet, regardless of the facts. Ultimately, it’s up to the consumer to determine which information source is credible.
- In order to determine a trusted, verified source for credible and objective information, stick with well-respected health websites. A good starting point is healthfinder.gov, which provides a “Health A to Z” topic listing (http://www.healthfinder.gov/HealthAtoZ/ ) of over 1,600 health topics from the most trusted sources.
- Newspapers always use more than one source for verifying factual information. The same should hold true for health information. When searching a topic, it’s important to find at least a second reference to confirm your findings. Find a third reference, too, if possible. When several sources report similar information on a topic, it’s more likely to be accurate and up-to-date. In general, if you can't find the information duplicated in more than two or three references, then the information is questionable at best.
- Become skilled at separating facts from opinions. This can sometimes be difficult, as the evidence that exists may be minimal. It's important that you know the difference between fact and opinion, especially when you're researching treatment alternatives.
- Testimonials and personal stories tend to focus on a patient’s subjective point of view. If you find a website that quotes patients about the effectiveness of a treatment or therapy, this information is biased and cannot be trusted as a reliable source. However, there is information to be learned from the experiences of patients by using other sources (for example, through blogs and wikis, and support group message board forums). In those situations, refer back to point 1 (above) as your first line of review.
- Make sure the information you find is the most current available. Often, you will find that research and studies conflict with one another, or that newer information trumps older information.
Finally, information that you find on a website does not replace your doctor's advice. Your doctor is the best person to answer questions about your personal health. If you read something on the internet that doesn't concur with what your doctor has told you, make a point to speak with him or her about it.
Recent research challenges the notion that flat-footed runners need motion-control shoes while high-arched runners need well-cushioned ones. In a recent military study, assigning shoes based on the shape of the arch of one’s foot did little to prevent juries. Previous studies by scientists in Canada and Australia found similar results. When you go to the footwear store on your next visit, listen to what your feet tell you. Choose a pair that fits and feels right!
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.
The August 16 edition of the New York Times has an interesting piece on how athletes try to follow their passion for sport while at the same time coping with the frustration of repeated injuries.
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.
Not seeing the results you used to from your workout? Your body may have adapted to it. The American Council on Exercise suggests that you need to shake things up and surprise your body a bit. Change your cardio and weight workout periodically so that you continue to see results. Click here for more information how to "periodize" your workout.