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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.

Army app predicts altitude sickness

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Altitude, Environment
Learn how a new app can help leaders predict and plan around the likelihood of Soldiers experiencing acute mountain sickness.

The Altitude Readiness Management System (ARMS) app’s designed to predict how likely Soldiers are to experience acute mountain sickness and decreased physical performance at various altitudes. Using this new Android app (developed by the U.S Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine), leaders can plan mountain missions around those likely to be impacted by sickness.

The ARMS app also provides an acclimatization module for planning strategic ascents and rests to minimize sickness. Altitude sickness can cause serious symptoms including nausea, fatigue, headaches, and weakness, affecting health and the mission itself too. While the app can’t prevent illness, it can help minimize the impact of mountain sickness, set appropriate expectations, and improve readiness and performance. The app has been fielded to the U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) and the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) only, but it might be available to the public soon.

Speak nicely to your kids

Using harsh words to discipline your kids might hurt more than you think. Learn how to keep their behavior in check. Remember, you’re all they’ve got.

Yelling, swearing, and/or calling your children names can take a toll on their behavior and mental health. Make a point to keep your anger in check and remember that how you talk to your kids matters.

Harsh verbal discipline includes shouting, screaming, swearing, and/or name-calling. By some estimates, nearly half of parents speak severely to their kids. They sometimes do so out of desperation, especially when they’re frustrated and/or angry—or they simply feel that nothing else is working.

So what’s the end result? Parents could get what they “want,” but it might only be for the short-term. Even worse, kids’ mental health and self-esteem could suffer. Children who are exposed to shouting and swearing tend to develop poor behavior. Kids and teens on the receiving end of yelling, cursing, and name-calling tend to be more physically aggressive too. And they could struggle socially.  

Discipline is about teaching kids to manage their behavior and letting them know you’re worried when they make a bad choice. It's also about keeping them safe. Discipline isn’t about winning battles or calling your children humiliating names.

If you follow these five steps for managing your anger, you’ll be well on your way to developing a more effective and positive approach to disciplining your kids. Try becoming more mindful of your emotions rather than letting them drive your behavior.

Make your children’s emotional health a priority. Parenting for Service Members and Veterans suggests a positive approach to discipline begins with a strong relationship between you and your kids. Constantly on the go? Download the Parenting2Go app for helpful tips when you’re on the road.  

Dietary supplements and women’s health

How does military training and pregnancy affect women’s nutritional status and need for supplements?

Military training and pregnancy increase women’s nutritional needs, specifically for vitamin D, calcium, iron, folate, and iodine. While HPRC always recommends choosing whole foods first, sometimes it can be difficult to get enough of those nutrients through food alone. When nutrient needs are higher than normal or when nutrient-rich foods aren’t available, vitamin and mineral supplements can help women to restore nutrient levels in their bodies. Just remember that you don’t need supplements unless you have known nutrient deficiencies, so talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplement. Read more...

Turning mealtime into “family time”

After a long workday, you might consider forgoing a family meal. Instead, combine plan-ahead tips with simple time-saving recipes. Add your loved ones to the mix and enjoy!

Mealtime can be enjoyable “family time” too, especially when you plan ahead and ask family members to “pitch in.” Kids like being helpful so let them know they’re vital members of your “family team.”

Many moms and dads recognize the importance of family mealtimes, but often want helpful ideas to make it “the norm.” Here are some tried-and-true tips to get you started. Add these to your family’s routine gradually. And add new tips whenever possible. Read more...

Celebrate Mother’s Day

Filed under: Family, Relationships
Celebrate Mother’s Day wherever you’re serving—at home or abroad.

Mother’s Day is set aside to honor mothers, but for service members who can’t celebrate with their moms or who can’t take time to celebrate being a mom, it can be hard. But still do your best to take time and recognize the special moms in your life.

  • Show your appreciation with a handwritten note or ecard. If you’re feeling creative, make a card from scratch—just like you did as a kid—and drop it in the mail.
  • Enjoy a physical activity together. Go walking, running, biking, hiking, or do yoga. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, together or apart, can help you both enjoy Mother’s Day in the future too.
  • Nourish your mom with healthy treats or a homemade meal. And consider inviting a mom who doesn’t have family nearby. Good food and conversation can make her day special too.

If you can’t be with your mom, then schedule a time to talk or video chat. Let her know how much you cherish your relationship. And ask any questions you might have wondered about, such as:

  • How are we alike or different?
  • What did you really think when I joined the military (or married someone in the military)?
  • Is it easier being a mother now that your kids are grown?
  • What do you hope the next few years will bring for our family?

If you’re feeling some sadness or anxiety, make a point to manage your stress. “Perfect” moms and/or children could evoke stress, even if you love them dearly. Consider mindfulness or other ways to cope, and make the best of this day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all military moms—service members, spouses, and mothers of service members!

PFT/PRT prep—Part 3: Mobility

Mobility, stability, and flexibility go hand in hand when translating your PFT/PRT training into performance. Training for each requires different but complementary approaches.

This is the third and final article in HPRC’s series about training for Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT). The last basic component involves keeping your body fit for movement, especially your joints and the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments. For coordinated and efficient movements, you need give-and-take between the mobility and stability of these parts.

Preventing injuries also requires mobility and stability of your musculoskeletal system. To improve and maintain your mobility, you need to incorporate stretching into your regular training regimen, along with your aerobic and muscular-strength exercises. The addition of muscular-strength exercises to flexibility exercises addresses your joint-stability needs. Read more...

Brain injury and memory problems

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Many service members have been affected by traumatic brain injuries. Some have memory problems too. Learn more.

Since 2000, around 350,000 service members have been affected by traumatic brain injuries. TBI often impacts memory, especially short-term memory. Think of long-term memory and short-term memory as “holding bins” for information. Your long-term memory can hold information from several days to decades, while your short-term memory retains information for just a few seconds. And short-term memory is closely associated with working memory (your ability to manipulate information in your head) and sustained attention (your ability to maintain focus).

When memory problems strike, short-term memory, working memory, and sustained attention tend to suffer before long-term memory does. Regardless of cause, memory of a remote event stands out more than newer events because your mind has “rehearsed” the older event repeatedly, essentially embedding it in your brain through repetition. By comparison, your mind hasn’t yet “learned” the newer event. For example, you might recall every detail of combat stories but have difficulty remembering what you ate for lunch. In this case, brain connections that rehearsed the combat story have become solidified, while connections responsible for learning this new information haven’t formed yet.

Depending on the location and nature of the injury, your brain might work differently than it did in the past. This could happen because brain cells that used to “communicate” with each other easily are now being rerouted.

Short-term memory, working memory, and sustained attention also can be affected by other factors such as stress, distraction, poor sleep, depression, anxiety, and/or body toxins. The cause isn’t always obvious. Your doctor can help sort it out, answer questions about your condition, treatment, and prognosis, and refer you to a neuropsychologist for further evaluation. In the meantime, you might find HPRC’s TBI resources useful too.

Ketone supplements

Are ketone supplements the key to improving your performance?

If you’ve searched recently for dietary supplements to enhance your performance, you may have come across products marketed as “ketone supplements.” Before you consider taking any of these products, read the new Operation Supplement Safety FAQ about ketone supplements. Learn what ketone supplements are and if they’re worth the often-hefty price tag.

If you’re curious about other supplements marketed for performance, check out the OPSS Performance FAQs. Can’t find the answers you’re looking for? Send us a question using our Ask the Expert feature.

Ketogenic diet and performance enhancement

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
What’s a ketogenic diet? Can it really help you perform better?

A ketogenic diet (KD) is one that’s very high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. Traditionally, KDs have been used to help treat children with epilepsy (seizure disorder), but over the past few years they have gained popularity in the athletic community for purported performance-enhancing effects. At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the use of KDs to improve performance; in some cases, it can even decrease performance. It also can be difficult to maintain a ketogenic diet due to its extreme dietary constrictions, which come with potential negative side effects. Read more...

PFT/PRT prep—Part 2: Muscular strength

Part 2 of HPRC’s PFT/PRT prep series focuses on exercising for muscular strength and endurance—critical components to performing your best on your fitness test.

Another basic component of Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT) training involves muscular strength and endurance, but as with aerobic conditioning, you need to develop it over time, not just before your fitness tests. Whether you’re training or in the field, and even when you’re not thinking about it—such as moving ammunition boxes into a transport—your muscular strength and endurance are essential components of your overall fitness.

But training to improve muscular strength is not the same as training for muscular endurance. Muscular strength is the amount of force that a muscle can produce with a single maximum effort. Muscular endurance is the ability to sustain a muscle contraction over a period of time, or to repeatedly contract a muscle over a period of time.

Learn how to use the FITT principle to develop a muscular fitness routine that will build both strength and endurance to prepare for PFT/PRT and beyond. Read more...

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