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.
Not all birth defects can be prevented, but a pregnant woman can increase her chances of having a healthy baby by eating well and avoiding infections that could impact her health and her baby’s health. You can lower your risk by following these practices:
Maintain good hygiene by washing your hands often. Be especially diligent when preparing food and before eating. Wash your hands after handling any raw foods, but especially meat, eggs, and produce.
Food choices are critical. Make sure to get 400 mcg of folic acid daily by either taking a supplement or eating a fortified breakfast cereal. (Ideally, all women should be ingesting this amount.) Be sure to avoid raw fish, raw milk and cheeses, and raw sprouts. If you have kids, take care not to share their food or drinks. Avoid putting your child’s pacifier in your mouth because many children have the cytomegalovirus, which is transmitted through body fluids such as saliva. Be sure to stay well hydrated, preferably with water, as it can help fight off infections.
It’s also important to see a healthcare provider early on and throughout your pregnancy. A healthy pregnancy includes controlling your weight by eating healthfully and being active. To learn more about National Birth Defects Prevention Month, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web page. And for more nutrition information for maintaining a healthy pregnancy, visit HPRC’s FAQs about nutrition during pregnancy.
Tai Chi is a form of exercise and mind-body practice that can provide many physical, psychological, and social benefits. It can also be used to reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTS, formerly referred to as PTS). Tai Chi involves slow, gentle movements and controlled breathing. It can improve sleep, pain management, strength, and flexibility for many individuals. Practicing Tai Chi can also reduce depression, stress, and anger, which are often symptoms of PTS. The mental focus, relaxation and breathing techniques, and physical health benefits associated with Tai Chi might explain this reduction in depression and improvement in overall mood.
This Chinese form of exercise promotes relaxation and enhances alertness and attentiveness. Hyperarousal (that is, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, tense muscles, and sweating) is a common symptom of PTS, and Tai Chi can help individuals regulate their arousal levels. Tai Chi and other mind-body practices such as yoga and mindfulness can help individuals cope with chronic pain and health ailments that commonly accompany symptoms of PTS.
You don’t have to be diagnosed with PTS to experience the benefits of Tai Chi, though. It is a low-impact workout for anyone who would like to sweat a little and relax the mind. Also, it is offered at many MWR facilities on military bases around the world. If you would like to try it first in the comfort of your own home, there are videos online you can watch to get an idea of the practice and what it involves. Look at your gym schedule to see if Tai Chi is available to try out too!
Some dietary supplements marketed for weight loss contain “raspberry ketone.” This ingredient is one of several naturally occurring chemicals found in red raspberries that contribute to their aroma; it also occurs in other fruits such as cranberries and blackberries. Raspberry ketone is used in some foods as a flavoring agent and in other products such as cosmetics. Because the amount of raspberry ketone found naturally is so low, it is produced synthetically in a laboratory for use in commercial products.
The limited number of studies done on cells, mice, rats, and other small animals indicate that raspberry ketone might improve fat metabolism. However, the same effect has yet to be established in humans, and currently there is insufficient scientific evidence that supplemental raspberry ketone is effective for weight loss.
If you’re wondering how to talk with your partner about his or her weight, resist the urge to control or criticize. Instead, express genuine concern, and focus on healthy, sustainable changes that you can make together.
Couples typically share similar values and engage in activities together, so you’re more likely to impact each other’s health habits. Yet criticism about weight can be a source of conflict between some couples, which can affect your otherwise fulfilling relationship.
When one partner is at a healthy weight and one is overweight, there’s a greater chance for conflict, especially when they eat together. If one tries to restrict the other’s eating, things become less enjoyable. You might argue more too.
Try to be supportive about your loved one’s health issues. It’s most helpful when your message expresses caring and closeness. Be in tune with your partner’s needs if she or he is asking for your help with making healthier habits. Try being an “accountability” partner and help keep your partner on track towards his or her goals. Establish mutual goals you can work on to help improve your health and wellness too.
Some phrases to avoid include:
- “You’re going to eat that?”
- “Maybe you should stop eating.”
- “You’re going to gain more weight if you keep eating so much.”
Some supportive phrases to try include:
- “Let’s both commit to healthy eating in the new year.”
- “Since you’ve expressed wanting to eat healthier, how can I help?”
- “I know you’re trying hard to eat healthier, and it’s not easy. I’m proud of your efforts. Let’s continue in a positive direction.”
Create healthy lifestyle changes together. Pack nutritious lunches and snacks for work or school, and prepare well-balanced meals. Check with your installation about couples cooking classes and other wellness activities offered through Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs too. And check out HPRC’s ABCs of Nutrition page and videos for more ideas.
The U.S. military comprises one of the most diverse collections of members, and DoD continues to make significant progress to advance inclusivity and diversity. For example, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals (LGB) and transgender persons can openly serve, and women are now considered for combat positions. Women also can attend training schools previously exclusive to men. While some changes have been controversial, consider how diversity makes for a stronger force.
- Diversity boosts problem-solving. Effective solutions and innovative thinking happen when those with varied outlooks and experiences work together. Diverse teams excel when they examine all sides of an issue, focus more on facts and evidence, and identify new solutions.
- Diversity allows for authenticity. Organizations that support inclusion and discourage discrimination enable their members and employees to be genuine in personality, spirit, and character while bringing their strengths to their duties. This enhances well-being, improves job satisfaction, and decreases burnout and job-related stress.
- Diversity fosters flexibility. According to a DoD report, the military connects diversity to its overall readiness and mission accomplishment. Diversity initiatives help leaders recruit and retain talent from a broader pool, enabling strategic agility. Practicing cross-cultural competence and communication within the Armed Forces helps service members use their skills to navigate cultural divides they encounter on global diplomatic and combat missions.
Differences can seem challenging, but diversity is essential for the military to maintain representation and connection to those it serves. Many Americans serve side by side in the service of this nation. What divides them also can potentially be their greatest asset. In the face of ideological intolerance, the military can show how diversity strengthens and helps maintain optimal organizational performance.
In a Human Performance Optimization (HPO) Spotlight video, Army veteran Anthony Radetic discusses optimizing his performance as an elite athlete after becoming an incomplete paraplegic. He served as a helicopter pilot until he was injured in a motor vehicle accident that left him in a wheelchair.
Anthony talks about how he came to embrace competitive sports despite his injury. He discusses building his confidence and stamina to professionally compete in hand cycling, monoski racing, and jetski racing events. Anthony also describes how his mission changed after his injury, and how he learned to refocus himself to reach his optimized performance at home and during competitions. Check out the video below to learn more about his resilience.
Be prepared so you can make smart choices the next time a snack attack hits. Most people have a “snack drawer”—whether it’s in their office desk, gym locker, backpack, or car. Snacking can be an important part of your meal plan, preventing late-afternoon vending machine runs or overeating at mealtime. Snacks also can provide crucial nutrients before workouts or missions.
A healthy snack provides 100–300 calories, depending on your weight and activity level. Try to stock your snack drawer with a variety of nutrient-rich snacks.
- Choose lean proteins. Select water-packed tuna in single-serve pouches or nut butters. Or choose walnuts, almonds, or pistachios. If you have an office fridge, stock it with boiled eggs (up to one week) or single-serving cups of hummus, cottage cheese, or Greek yogurt.
- Pick healthy carbs. Options include instant oatmeal or grits, whole-grain crackers, air-popped popcorn, and dried fruit.
- Enjoy fresh fruits and veggies. Stock up on cut-up celery or cucumbers, baby carrots, and apples.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water (flavored with slices of lemon or cucumber), herbal tea, milk, soy milk, or almond milk. Or eat juicy fruits such as watermelon, oranges, and kiwis.
Follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendations on consuming foods and drinks too. And be mindful of portion sizes. Make sure to visit the MedlinePlus page to learn more about healthy snacking.
It can be extra challenging to get outdoors and exercise in the winter. But don’t let cold temperatures freeze your exercise routine. Use these tips to help you “weather” the winter weather!
- Dress in layers. Choose synthetic materials such as polyester or polypropylene that stay close to the skin. Avoid cotton since it soaks up sweat! You always can remove layers as you get warmer.
- Warm up. Take a few minutes and do a dynamic warm up before you head outdoors. This will help warm up your muscles and body, so it might feel like less of a shock when you step outside.
- Protect your extremities—especially your fingers, toes, and ears. Circulation to these areas decreases in cold weather. Chemical heat warmers also can help keep your hands and feet warm.
- Check the forecast. Wind chill, snow, and rain can make your body more vulnerable to the outside temperatures. Plan an indoor workout when the wind chill is extreme (negative numbers) or the temperature drops below 0°F. You’re at risk of hypothermia and frostbite if you’re not properly prepared.
- Be visible. With fewer hours of sunlight in the winter months, you might be walking or running when it’s dark out—even at dusk and dawn. Wear reflective gear or a headlamp to stay visible to oncoming traffic.
- Apply sunblock. You can still get sunburned in the winter, so don’t forget the sunscreen!
- Stay hydrated. When exercising in cold climates, don’t rely on thirst to indicate hydration since you usually don’t feel as thirsty in cold temperatures. You need to stay just as hydrated in cold weather as you do when it’s hot outside.
- Ask your doctor. Certain symptoms might worsen in cold weather if you have asthma, heart issues, or Raynaud’s disease (when specific body parts feel numb due to cold temperatures or stress). Talk to a healthcare professional about your concerns before heading outside for your cold-weather workout.
Whatever you want to accomplish in 2017, those New Year’s resolutions are a good thing. Setting goals can help you achieve optimal performance. Use the tips below (based on recommendations from the American Psychological Association) to help you actually achieve those goals.
- One at a time. Trying to do everything at once can lead to burnout. Tackle one issue at a time instead: Break your goals into pieces you can build on.
- Start small. Pace yourself to go the distance. You might be eager to get started, but begin with the more manageable goals and build up to the really challenging ones.
- Share. Talk about your goals and progress with your family and friends. They can be your biggest supporters. It might help them understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and it even might interest them enough to join you.
- Ask your buddies. Getting help is a sign of strength. It can help reduce the stress of trying to reach your goals. If you’re struggling with one aspect of a goal, seek out advice and support. You also can get help from HPRC’s Mind-Body Skills, with evidence-based information that can help you progress towards your goals.
- Don’t strive for perfection. Perfection is an ever-moving—if not impossible—target, so don’t waste your time chasing it. Performance optimization is about being your best, not perfect. If you make mistakes, recover and get back on track—don’t abandon your goals. Learn from your mistakes instead, and you might find it brings your goals even closer.
For more information on how to become your best, check out HPRC’s Ten Rules of Engagement for performance enhancement.
Emotion coaching is a strategy parents can use to teach their kids about healthy emotion expression. During emotion coaching, parents openly discuss and validate the feelings their child expresses. Parents encourage their kids to find ways to calm themselves when a wave of strong emotion hits. Kids whose parents practice emotion coaching have better self-control and fewer behavioral problems.
Parents engage in emotion coaching when you’re actively and purposefully responsive to your child’s emotions. It requires that you be aware of your child’s emotional state. It also challenges you to see emotions as an important part of your child’s experience. During emotion coaching, parents accept those feelings and teach their children how to manage positive and negative emotions. Read more...