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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.

Paralympic Military Program

Athletes are gearing up for the Rio Paralympics in September. Feeling inspired? Learn how the Paralympic Military Program is one gateway to Paralympic sport opportunities.

Adaptive sport programs for wounded, injured, and ill service members are an important part of the rehabilitation process. And the Paralympic Military Program provides Paralympic sport opportunities—including camps, clinics, and competitions—to over 2,000 athletes each year. The program also promotes mentorship, teamwork, and fellowship for its athletes, especially those starting their roads to recovery. The results are impressive too: 5 military athletes won medals at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia!

The Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also offer many adaptive sport programs and clinics throughout the country. Whether you’re looking for a new challenge or going for the Gold, the first step is getting out there and being active!

Check out the Paralympic Military Program page to learn more about adaptive sport opportunities in your community. And be sure to cheer on service members, veterans, and other Paralympians at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, beginning September 7.

Go team USA!

Expired sunscreen: Is it safe?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Check the expiration date on your bottle of sunscreen before heading outdoors for summer fun.

Take note: Your sunscreen—important for protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays—has an expiration date! Just as you wouldn’t expect to feel well after eating expired food, don’t rely on expired sunscreen to protect you from the sun.

Sunscreen can be effective for up to 3 years. After that, its active ingredients start to deteriorate, leaving you vulnerable to sunburn and sun damage. Ideally, you should use sunscreen often enough that your bottle doesn’t last through the summer. If that’s not the case, check the bottle you’re currently using. If it’s old, throw it out.

If you buy sunscreen with the expiration printed only on the box or wrapper, use a permanent marker to write the date somewhere on the bottle. And store it in a cool, dry place. Practice safe sun this summer to keep your family healthy and happy!

Sex, sexuality, and intimacy resources

HPRC has a new section about sex, sexuality, and intimacy. Read up on articles, FAQs, and other resources to help maintain intimacy in your relationship.

Sex and other intimate behaviors are natural parts of life and important to maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner. Learn about the health benefits of sex and how to build intimacy—in and out of the bedroom—and much more in HPRC’s new Sex, Sexuality & Intimacy section. And find answers to frequently asked questions about common sexual problems, how to spice up your sex life, and other sex and intimacy issues affecting service members. You’ll find links to other helpful resources about sexual health and intimacy too.

Be sure to check out the Sex, Sexuality & Intimacy section. And if you have other questions or suggestions about content, contact us using our Ask the Expert feature.

Healthy twists on frozen treats

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Fruit, Nutrition, Summer
Does the thought of a frozen treat make you feel like a kid again? Start a new warm-weather tradition and make these easy treats with your friends and family!

Service members have enjoyed frozen treats at least since the Army and Navy boosted morale by serving ice cream sandwiches and sundaes to troops during World War II. However, these frozen sweets often contain excess calories and sugar, which can add to your daily calories. The good news is you can whip up healthy frozen treats at home.

The following tried-and-true favorites will delight your “inner child” and still fit nicely in a healthy meal pattern. And they include fruits and dairy—with additional calcium, potassium, fiber, protein, and other nutrients—possibly MIA from your diet. They also can be made for pennies, which is refreshing for your wallet!

  • Pudding pops. Prepare your favorite pudding recipe or powdered mix with skim milk. Add chopped peaches or berries. Freeze in molds or 4-oz paper cups for one hour. Insert popsicle sticks and freeze 2 more hours.
  • Frozen yogurt sundae. Scoop ½ cup frozen yogurt into a dish. Add one chopped banana and a handful of nuts.
  • Banana split. Lay banana halves in a dish. Add watermelon chunks and berries. Top with ½ cup frozen yogurt (any flavor) and 1 Tbsp of crunchy granola.
  • Banana pops. Insert a popsicle stick into a peeled, ripe banana. Freeze 2 hours. Put 1 tsp chocolate chips in the bottom corner of a small plastic bag. Melt in microwave for approximately 90 seconds. Cut off the corner of the bag and drizzle chocolate over frozen fruit. Quickly press with 1 tsp crushed nuts.
  • Frozen fruit. Portion canned fruit (in 100% juice) or fresh fruit (with juice) into 4-oz paper cups. Or use single-serving fruit cups. Freeze 1 hour. Insert popsicle sticks and freeze 2 more hours.
  • Frozen smoothie. Extra smoothie on hand? Freeze any leftovers in ice cube trays for 2 hours. Pop out.

Enjoy and stay cool!

Image from Naval Institute and must have following photo credit when used: "Photo from U.S. Naval Institute"

Photo from U.S. Naval Institute

“X” out tobacco

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Apps, Smoking, Tobacco
Join the fun today and play tXtobacco, a new contest sponsored by the DoD and partners.

The Department of Defense (DoD), Quit Tobacco-UCanQuit2.org, and the National Cancer Institute have teamed up to promote tobacco-free living in the military with a new contest called tXtobacco.

  • What is it? tXtobacco is a text-message trivia game. The aim of the contest is to improve knowledge and change attitudes towards tobacco among service members and provide support to those who use tobacco.
  • How does it work? After you enroll, you’ll receive weekly text-message questions for one month. Points are awarded for participation and correct answers, and top-scorers will be acknowledged on weekly online leader boards.
  • Who can play? tXtobacco is designed for active-duty service members in post-basic training (both smokers and non-smokers) aged 18–24. But anyone in DoD can participate and is encouraged to join.
  • How do I sign up? Signing up is quick and easy. Just text TRIVIA to 47848. If you’re participating as part of a registered group, text the program code as well. Installation and service leads can request program codes by contacting info@UCanQuit2.org.
  • When can I start? Now! The contest is offered on a rolling basis and ends 12 December 2016. The last day to enroll is 13 November 2016.

For more information about tXtobacco, visit Quit Tobacco-UCanQuit2.org. Let the games begin!

More “tainted” products

FDA continues to identify over-the-counter products, including dietary supplements, containing hidden active ingredients. Could yours be one of them?

Since July 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released over 25 Public Notifications about individual supplement products marketed for sexual enhancement and weight loss that contain hidden active ingredients. Through laboratory testing, these products were found to contain drugs and controlled substances—ingredients that pose health and readiness risks. For a list of these Public Notifications, visit FDA’s Tainted Sexual Enhancement Products and Tainted Weight Loss Products.

The most common types of products found to contain “undeclared” ingredients (that is, substances not listed on the label) are those marketed for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding. Dietary supplements don’t require FDA approval before being put on the market, and there is no way to know the contents of a product without laboratory testing. So if you’re considering a dietary supplement, check the label to see if the product has been evaluated by an independent third-party organization.

Back-to-school ABCs for Total Family Fitness

Filed under: Family, Kids, School
School starts soon! Find out how to make a Total Family Fitness transition back to school this fall.

As summer vacation comes to an end, the transition back to school is just around the corner. Now’s the time to review the ABCs of a Total Family Fitness transition back to school: Awareness, Bedtime, Calmness, Diet, and Exercise. This is your chance to lay a foundation for your family’s healthy habits throughout the school year. HPRC's Total Family Fitness approach focuses on the health, wellness, and resilience of your family. It can help optimize and strengthen your family’s performance by integrating strategies that impact their mind, body, relationships, and environment—many of the same strategies used in the Total Force Fitness model for Warfighters. Read more...

If the shoe fits—Part 3: Tying your shoelaces

Filed under: Gear, Running, Training
Find out how to lace your running shoes for a better fit.

This third and final article in HPRC’s series about running shoes “ties” everything together. Although there are lots of different ways to tie them, the traditional way sometimes doesn’t cut it. Is your heel slipping? There’s a lace-up for that. Do you have a hot spot? There’s a lace-up for that. Check out the videos below for shoelace-tying fixes to 3 common foot problems:

Heel lock. What are those extra eyelets at the top of your shoes? Use those eyelets and this heel-lock method to secure your foot, without having to tighten the rest of your shoelaces.

Black toenails. Are your toenails turning black and blue? Tie your shoelaces to help pull the shoe away from your toes, giving them more wiggle room. Remember: The lace ends don’t have to be even once you start lacing your shoes. The diagonal lace can be a little shorter to start with, but leave enough so you can finish tying your shoes.

Hot spot or high arches. Is there a sore spot on the top of your foot? Or do you have high arches? Lace around painful areas—not over them—by moving the laces up or down, depending on where the irritation is located.

If you haven’t seen them yet, be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the running-shoe series.

Can Olympians motivate your eating?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Many of us will be glued to our TVs, watching the Olympic Games over the next several days. What can we learn about nourishing our bodies from these elite athletes?

Olympic athletes follow a rigorous training schedule with their eyes on the Gold, and what they eat and drink can make a winning difference! Most of them work with sports dietitians to help reach their nutrition goals. However, others can learn from their examples as well:

  • Food fuels and nourishes your body to help you perform well. Olympic athletes teach the importance of nutritious fueling every day by including the right balance of foods and beverages for each workout and event.
  • Successful Olympians jump-start their days with breakfasts that include protein and carbohydrate-rich foods. This keeps them energized and ready for the next challenge.
  • It’s important to keep a healthy relationship with food. Food is more than fuel. Even after eating to meet a specific goal, sometimes it’s still healthy to eat a favorite food just because you’re in the mood. However, some Olympians are at greater risk of eating disorders, especially those who become too focused on body image and develop an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to calorie needs. Some endurance athletes take in over 5,000 calories daily. The United States Olympic Committee provides helpful eating guidelines for its athletes.

Remember that the goal for a healthy lifestyle is something greater than Gold: your wellness!

Fun facts: Did you know that the Armed Forces Sports (AFS) program paves the way for service members to compete in national, Olympic, and international athletic competitions?

Let’s cheer on the 16 Armed Forces members participating in Rio’s Olympic Games and those who will compete in the Paralympics next month.

Go team USA!

Does “cupping” reduce pain?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
What is “cupping”? Is it effective at treating pain?

“Cupping” has received attention recently with discussion of Olympic athletes using the practice to relieve pain and improve performance. However, evidence for the effectiveness of cupping is mixed.

Cupping therapy is a traditional Chinese medical practice that is popular in Asia, the Middle East, and in some parts of Europe. During treatment, a cup is placed on the skin over muscles and a vacuum is created to remove the air inside the cup. The vacuum against the skin is thought to promote blood flow to the tissue underneath the cup, which might bring relief of pain and tension. Cupping typically leaves reddish to purple circles on the body where the cups were placed. The bruises can take several days to weeks to fade.

Cupping is generally considered safe but should always be performed by a qualified professional. One obvious side effect is the circular bruises. Patients also report feeling warmer during the treatment and sometimes sweat more. Cupping is not recommended if you are pregnant or menstruating, or if you have metastatic cancer or bone fracture. It shouldn’t be applied to injured skin. There’s an increase risk of complication when the duration of treatment lasts more then 20 minutes, and some patients have been burned during cupping therapy.

How effective is cupping? The jury is still out at this point. There haven’t been enough studies to say definitively how effective cupping is at reducing pain compared to other pain management techniques. More rigorous research is needed before cupping can be called an effective treatment for pain. Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider before adding cupping to your pain management plan.

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