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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.

Football season fitness

Football season is well underway. Make sure your healthy habits don’t take a hit on the weekends.

Brisk fall weather means it’s the perfect time to hit the couch for a weekend of watching football. But don’t let all the hard work and smart decisions you’ve made during the week go to waste. Avoid weekend binging and (too much) lazing by staying active during commercial breaks and making healthy choices when it comes to snacks.

The average football game consists of about 11 minutes of actual play—so you’re watching huddles, replays, and commercials in-between. Use that downtime to your advantage, call an audible, and get moving during time-outs!

  • Complete a quick DIY workout during commercial breaks.
  • Go for a jog around your neighborhood during halftime.
  • Remember to make healthy food choices too.

Check out A Football Fan’s Guide to Food and Fitness for ways to stay healthy and active during football season.

Adult-sibling relationships

Sibling relationships are bound to change over time, especially during adulthood. A supportive relationship with your brother or sister is good for your emotional health. Learn more.

Siblings provide companionship throughout your life if you maintain a connection, especially during your deployment. If you have a brother or sister, your relationship with your sibling(s) can be supportive and satisfying as you age.

Sibling connections are unique in that they often are your longest, enduring relationships. Sibling ties also are involuntary: You don’t get to choose your brothers or sisters. And as a child, whether or not you realized it, your siblings influenced how you socialized with others, your vocabulary, and how you managed conflict.

As you grow older, sibling relationships can change along with the life events you experience. Particularly between the ages of 18 and 25, when siblings often move away from home, the involuntary nature of the relationship shifts to one that might be worthwhile. Older siblings who move away might leave their younger siblings feeling a sense of loss in their absence, perhaps as they head off to boot camp or basic training. It’s normal for these close-knit connections to dip in early adulthood as you live on your own, start a career, and form new relationships.

Yet most sibling relationships stabilize into adulthood—and that’s good for your health! A supportive, affectionate relationship with your sibling can boost happiness and self-esteem and decrease loneliness. It can protect you from developing depression during stressful life events too.

No matter how far apart you live from your sisters or brothers, a strong sibling relationship is still possible. So, stay in touch with your siblings during your deployment and otherwise.

The benefits of positive emotions

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn about the mental, physical, and emotional benefits that small doses of positive emotions can bring to your life.

Many people believe that positive emotions such as love, joy, gratitude, and happiness are luxuries without purpose. Sure, they make you feel good, but what else do they do for you? You can probably already identify ways in which negative emotions serve a purpose in your life. Anxiety drives you to prepare. Embarrassment can lead you to self-reflect. Guilt can enable you to apologize and make amends. But what purpose do positive emotions serve?

Positive emotions can help you be more creative. If you’ve ever been stuck trying to solve a problem for a long time, positive emotions can help you get outside the box and think more creatively about how to come up with a solution. Think about the last time you felt fear. What happened? Your heart rate sped up, maybe you even sweated, and you felt flustered. Positive emotions can also help bring your body back down to baseline more quickly after experiencing the physical impact of negative emotions. Finally, positive emotions put money in your stress-coping bank. If you find ways to experience a little goodness each day, you will be able to remain more robust in the face of challenges when they do arise.

Positive emotions don't just make you feel good: They’re good for relationships, can lead to success, and build your resilience over time. Think about what brings you feelings of love, joy, and contentment. Is it spending a few uninterrupted minutes with your kid playing on the floor? Sharing a funny video with a teammate over morning coffee? Taking a walk after dinner with your spouse? You have a busy life and lots to juggle. How often do you let opportunities to feel happy fall to the bottom of your priority list? Since the bad in your life can often outweigh the good, make sure you seek out opportunities to savor positive emotions.

Eating abroad

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Food, Food safety, Travel
Learn how to practice food safety and avoid illness—whether you’re preparing for an overseas deployment, PCS move, humanitarian aid mission, or vacation.

Eating in an unfamiliar culture can be adventurous but sometimes daunting, especially if you’re unprepared. You’ll find foods that are surprisingly familiar, such as sauces, soups, and pastas. However, the spices might be different. You’ll also find foods that are quite different from your usual fare. Keep familiar favorites in your meal plan while you enjoy the variety of special foods each culture has to offer.

You might have concerns about food and beverage safety in some locations, so heed the training you receive for specific areas. To maintain operational readiness and prevent gastrointestinal distress, pay close attention to what you eat and drink. You’re at risk of foodborne illnesses if you consume food or drinks containing certain bacteria, parasites, viruses, and toxins. Still, there are ways to stay well.

  • Eat only cooked produce that’s served hot. Wash all fruits with treated water and peel them yourself. Avoid salads, raw fruits and vegetables, and unpasteurized juices.
  • Eat thoroughly cooked meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Avoid foods served from food carts unless they’re cooked in front of you.
  • Enjoy pasteurized dairy products and hard cheeses. Avoid soft cheeses and unpasteurized yogurt.
  • Choose foods with little moisture, such as bread and crackers. Packaged dry foods are generally considered safe.
  • Drink beverages that are bottled and sealed. Check the seals because some merchants might fill empty bottles with tap water and reseal the caps with glue. Boil tap water for at least 3 minutes before making tea or coffee. And serve it steaming hot. Avoid ice too.

There might be times when you’re an invited guest, so you’ll be expected to eat what’s served. Be mindful of local eating customs, so that you’re respectful and safe while enjoying your meal.

By keeping these tips in mind, you should be able to thrive in your new locale and return home with great eating adventures to tell.

Are you sold on your supplement?

Should you take advice from people selling dietary supplement products?

When it comes to the topic of dietary supplements, a good rule of thumb is not to believe everything you hear or read from someone trying to sell you a product. Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) recently received Ask the Expert questions about products that were recommended by staff at stores, whether or not they were safe to take, and whether they would cause a positive result on a urinalysis test. In fact, two products were “high risk.”

If you’re considering a dietary supplement product, be sure to consult your healthcare provider first. Service dietitians can be another good resource to determine if you really need to supplement your diet. It’s important to know how to spot potential high-risk supplements. Find out too if there is reliable scientific evidence that the ingredients in a product actually work. For more information, OPSS has a comprehensive “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) section with subcategories about general and miscellaneous topics, dietary supplement ingredients, performance, and weight loss. Or, to watch some videos or short PSAs, click on “Tools for Warfighters,” and then the “Video” tab.

Dogs fighting depression and PTSD

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Service dogs and therapy dogs can help wounded and ill service members recover. Learn how these dogs can help in multiple ways.

The U.S. military supports the use of service dogs and therapy dogs to help wounded warriors obtain a higher level of independence, well-being, and purpose.

There’s an important distinction between service and therapy dogs. Service dogs are trained to do work or perform specific tasks for those with disabilities (as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act). The dog becomes a full-time companion for the person it serves. Service dogs also can retrieve objects, turn on lights, or open doors for those with mobility issues. Guide dogs assist visually impaired individuals, and signal dogs alert those who are hearing-impaired.

Therapy dogs offer goal-directed emotional, psychological, and (sometimes) physical support. They’re trained to provide comfort, affection, and unconditional acceptance. They can complement treatment for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) too. A therapy dog usually belongs to its “handler,” who accompanies it on visits to patients. Such dogs also complete special training, but it’s less lengthy than that of service dogs.

The value of animal-assisted interventions (including service and therapy dogs) has become widely accepted. The range of benefits includes positive physical and psychological health effects. Just physically touching a dog can reduce blood pressure, anxiety, stress, and hopelessness. These dogs are helping injured and ill service members at military and veterans’ hospitals across the country.

A special program exists where the roles of dogs in service and therapy come together: Veterans with PTSD train service dogs for veterans with mobility issues. This is a win-win: Both the veteran-trainer and the mobility-impaired veteran benefit from the same dog. Veteran-trainers learn and use positive methods of shaping a dog’s behavior, and as they do so, regain control of their own emotions, focus their attention, improve their social competence, and gain a sense of meaningful purpose.

Learn more about training dogs for service. And watch the Military Health System’s video of therapy dogs at work.

Training by suspense

Learn how to get a total-body workout with suspension training, using just your body weight as the resistance to perform exercises that build strength, flexibility, and balance.

Suspension training is popular among both civilians and service members, for good reason. If you’re on deployment or otherwise traveling, it isn’t practical to lug around heavy exercise equipment. But pack a couple of suspension-training straps, and you’ve got part of a well-rounded training routine covered. Once the straps are securely anchored to something sturdy enough to hold your weight, just place your hands or feet into the loops, and your body weight enhances the effectiveness of exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, lunges, core strengthening, and more.

While there are various ways to adjust and adapt the exercises for less experienced exercisers, this type of workout does call for some initial joint and core stability. There’s also potential risk of injury, especially for beginners. Before you try this for the first time, it’s a good idea to get some advice and guidance from a suspension-training professional. More gyms are now offering suspension-training classes, so you also can use one of these to get started. In the meantime, visit the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s page about suspension training for an idea of what to expect.

Military moms with postpartum depression

Military moms, like all moms, are at risk of postpartum depression after giving birth. Support and resources are available to help you cope.

Motherhood can be hard for military moms with postpartum depression (PPD), especially those who juggle a demanding career while parenting. You might wonder how you’ll manage your new parenting responsibilities with work. The good news is support is available, so you don’t have to struggle alone.

PPD affects nearly 15% of all women who give birth. While some moms might have the “baby blues” shortly after childbirth, others can experience more severe PPD that lasts much longer. You might feel worthless, lose interest in your baby, or eat and sleep too much or too little. Moms with PPD also can have memory problems, doubt their mothering skills, or lose pleasure in activities they once enjoyed.

Being a pregnant service member can be challenging too. You often have to manage long work hours throughout your pregnancy. And some expectant moms choose to keep their pregnancy-related emotions “in check,” fearing negative reactions from coworkers. Enlisted female service members also tend to be younger and have less support. Some might have unplanned pregnancies. You’re also at increased risk of PPD if you have a history of depression, marital problems, stress, or a very fussy baby.

PPD might be preventable if you know the warning signs and where to get help. There are many useful resources—including health care, breastfeeding support, and childcare—to help you cope. And check with your installation about new parent support programs and other health and wellness activities offered through Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs. Military moms now get 12 weeks of paid parental leave, so use this time to take care of your baby and yourself.

Seek military and family life counseling to improve your mental health and well-being too. And visit HPRC’s Pregnancy page to learn more about pre- and post-natal care.

Prevent altitude sickness

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Altitude sickness can affect your performance. Learn about what happens to your body and how to look for warning signs.

Altitude affects what your body needs and how it responds, especially when it comes to exercise. Acute mountain sickness (AMS)—caused by dry air, a decrease in oxygen, and low barometric pressure—can severely impact your health and performance. The good news is there are things you can do to help reduce your risk of altitude sickness.

Performing physical activity—whether you’re at the gym or on a mission—at moderate (4,000–7,900 ft or 1,200–2,400 m) and high (7,900–13,000 ft or 2,400–4,000 m) altitudes can be challenging. At high altitude, oxygen pressure is significantly lower, which results in less oxygen in the blood and muscle tissues. And as altitude increases, there’s also a decrease in air temperature (about 2°F for every 500 ft or 150 m), less moisture (resulting in drier air), and increased solar radiation. AMS can affect anyone who is unacclimatized and ascends too rapidly to high altitudes. Symptoms can include headache, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, vomiting, sleep problems, shortness of breath, dehydration, and impaired cognition and balance.

The risk and severity of altitude sickness are greater above 4,000 meters, and treatment might require evacuation to lower altitude or immediate medical attention. To reduce your risk of AMS, wear sunscreen, drink water, and try to limit your physical activity at altitude for the first 24 hours. Acclimate to moderate elevations (2,000–3,000 m), if possible.

With current and future military operations in mountainous regions, the issue of AMS is a serious concern. However, leaders can help manage and perhaps prevent AMS among Warfighters by being aware of the elevation, types of activities, and lengths of stay at altitudes. Visit HPRC’s Altitude section to learn more about performance at altitude.

Whole grains 101

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Grains, Nutrition
Try these tips to enjoy more whole grains in every meal and snack.

Whole grains—such as brown rice and oatmeal—keep you fuller longer and provide sustainable energy to boost your performance throughout the day. Those who eat whole grains daily have a lower incidence of prediabetes, heart disease, cancer, respiratory and infectious diseases, and mental decline too.

Make sure to make at least half of your grain choices whole grains daily to get the vitamins and nutrients they contain and that are missing from refined and processed grains. The more processed grains you eat, the more important nutrients you miss out on. Read more...

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