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.
It’s a fact: Teens need more sleep than adults. While most adults require a minimum of 7–8 hours of shut-eye, teens need 9 or more hours. (Newborns sleep 16–18 hours, preschoolers 11–12 hours, and school-age kids 10+ hours.)
However, most teens tend to sleep only 7.4 hours on school nights. Middle- and high-school students also have different sleep cycles from adults, making it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. most nights. Homework, exams, sports, and other extracurriculars—even changes such as daylight savings time—can also throw your teen’s snooze schedule off-kilter. Does your teen crave screen time late at night? Blue light from computers, tablets, and cell phones can throw off their sleep cycles too. Plus, tuning into a recent text or social media post can get the brain going, which can also make it hard to fall asleep.
Teens’ body clocks can cause them to go to bed late and sleep late in the morning. Added to this, early school start times make it difficult for teens to get enough sleep. If possible, ask your local school officials about later start times, or consider finding schools with later start times. Students who attend schools that start later have:
- More weeknight sleep
- Less daytime sleepiness
- Fewer concentration problems
- Better attendance
- Improved academic performance
- Fewer car accidents
For more information, you can visit the National Sleep Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Learn more about helping your teen get a good night's sleep—and wake up ready to start the day!
March is National Nutrition Month, a good reminder to eat healthfully and choose the best foods to fuel our bodies. This year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” which isn’t something we can often say about dietary supplements that come in the forms of pills and powders. If you’re looking for a supplement to lose weight, build muscle, or enhance your performance, HPRC always recommends choosing nutrient-rich foods first. They taste better and are better for you. Use the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) “Real Food” poster to see what foods can help you meet your goals.
If you’re still considering dietary supplements, be sure to visit OPSS where you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions, infosheets, videos, and other educational materials to help you make an informed decision. And remember to always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.
Winter isn’t over yet, so here’s a reminder: You can get dehydrated in cold weather. And it isn’t always easy to hydrate, especially when you’re on a mission. If you’re active outside for less than 2 hours, it isn’t likely to be a problem. But if you’re out in the cold for hours or even days for a field deployment, the combination of heavy clothing and high-intensity exercise can lead to sweating, which contributes to dehydration.
You might not even feel as thirsty in cold weather as in the heat, because your cold-weather body chemistry could affect your brain’s ability to tell you when you need liquid. Cold weather also tends to move body fluids from your extremities to your core, increasing your urine output and adding to dehydration.
So when you’re in a cold climate, don’t rely on thirst to tell you when you need to drink. Drink often and before you’re thirsty. One way to determine your hydration status is to check the color and volume of your urine. (Snow makes a good test spot.) Dark, scanty urine indicates dehydration. Ideally, urine should be light yellow.
Water and sports drinks are the best fluids to maintain hydration, even in cold weather conditions. Carbonated and caffeinated beverages (including energy drinks) have a dehydrating effect because they increase urine flow. Also avoid consuming alcohol in cold weather. It might make you feel warm initially, but it can reduce your body’s ability to retain heat.
Enjoy exercising in the cold weather, but be sure to keep your water bottle in tow.
Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health, including your heart health, but there are breathing techniques to buffer yourself from it! When you’re less focused on your breathing, it’s typical to breathe erratically—especially when you face the stressors of day-to-day life. In turn, your heart rate can become less rhythmic, causing your heart to not function as well.
But when you have longer, slower exhales—breathing at about 4-second-inhale and 6-second-exhale paces—your heart rate rhythmically fluctuates up and down. This rhythmic variability in heart rate mirrors your inhales and exhales so that you have maximum heart rate at the end of the inhale and minimum heart rate at the end of the exhale. More importantly, this physiological shift could help you feel less stressed, anxious, or depressed—and experience better heart health.
It’s easy to go through the motions of breathing while absorbed in your own thoughts; instead, take notice of your breathing and other body sensations. Regularly tuning in to your body sensations could help you feel more resilient and ready to:
- Adapt to change
- Deal with whatever comes your way
- See the brighter, or funnier, side of problems
- Overcome stress
- Tolerate unpleasant feelings
- Bounce back after illnesses, failures, or other hardships
- Achieve goals despite obstacles
- Stay focused under pressure
- Feel stronger
Check out HPRC’s Mind-Body Apps, Tools, and Videos for paced breathing MP3s and additional mind-body exercises. Start training your breathing and becoming more mindful today!
This year, make it your mission to fuel for performance using Go for Green® (G4G). Recently updated and redesigned, the Department of Defense’s (DoD) G4G program promotes nutritious foods and beverages to optimize your fitness, strength, and health. G4G labels foods and beverages with a stoplight system—Green, Yellow, and Red—to identify your best choices for peak performance. Foods are also labeled with Low, Moderate, or High sodium symbols to point out sodium content.
The revamped G4G has a new look that makes it easy to identify and choose foods that boost your readiness. Check out the G4G Background sheet to find out what's new, how you benefit, and why it works.
You might see more nutrient-rich foods and tastier Green-coded recipes being served in your dining facilities or galleys. Fill your plate with more Green-coded foods to perform well on the job, in the classroom, at home, and on missions.
A little kindness goes a long way. Thoughtfully supporting others actually improves your chances for a long life too. There are lots of ways to show helpfulness to neighbors, friends, or relatives such as providing transportation, running errands, or helping with childcare. Everyone benefits from giving and receiving support, and it doesn’t always have to be a deed or gesture.
Providing emotional support to somebody is one of the best gifts you can give. Share your thoughts and feelings, respond to each other’s needs, and listen attentively. Offer advice when asked. Not sure what to say? Sometimes your presence alone can bring comfort to someone who needs it. In fact, a caring gesture often encourages its recipient to return the kindness—so it becomes a “win-win.” Be nice, help others, and develop long-lasting relationships.
Personal trainers can help you safely start and maintain an exercise routine. They can keep you motivated and accountable when it comes to reaching your fitness goals. Finding the right trainer can be challenging but important. Think of it like a date: get to know your potential trainer to find out if you’re compatible. Here are a few things to look for:
- Education/Certifications. These days, anyone can become a personal trainer with a few mouse clicks. Is this person certified through one of the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) such as National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT), American Council on Exercise (ACE), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), or National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)? These are widely accepted certifications. Better yet, does the trainer have a 4-year degree in kinesiology or exercise science? Is he/she certified in CPR and first aid?
- Experience. We all have to start somewhere, but experience is helpful. How long has this person been a certified personal trainer? What types of clients does the trainer usually work with? Does he/she have expertise in sports conditioning, pre-natal fitness, or post-rehabilitation? If possible, ask clients (past and/or present) about their personal experiences.
- Personality. You have to enjoy spending time with your trainer so that you’re fully committed to your training routine. Do you prefer a female or a male trainer? Someone close to your age? Choose somebody you like—someone who can motivate you.
- Business practices/Liability. Before you begin, make sure you understand all payment policies and procedures. Are your schedules compatible? What’s the cancellation policy? Does the trainer carry professional liability insurance?
- Fees. Personal trainers can be worth the money, but make sure you understand what you’re paying for. What are the costs? How long is each session? How often will you meet? Is it cheaper if you buy more sessions up front? Will you need to purchase a gym membership?
HPRC’s foundation is Total Force Fitness—“The state in which the individual, family, and organization can sustain optimal well-being and performance under all conditions.” The American Heart Association recommends 7 simple steps that demonstrate how HPRC’s domains can combine for your health and performance:
- Don’t smoke. Visit HPRC’s Tobacco resources for help quitting.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Explore HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies for ideas on maintaining a healthy body weight and condition. Don’t rely on dietary supplements as a short cut; visit Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) Weight Loss FAQs to learn why.
- Move more. Visit HPRC’s Physical Fitness Exercise pages for enough fitness programs to keep your workouts going. Information from HPRC’s Environment domain can keep you going any time, any place.
- Eat a nourishing diet. Start with HPRC’s ABCs of Nutrition and move on to Performance Nutrition to achieve your best performance.
- Manage your blood pressure. In addition to diet, keep your stress levels down. Visit HPRC’s Mind-Body Stress Management pages to learn how.
- Take charge of your cholesterol. That means staying away from saturated fats. To learn more, read HPRC’s Nutrition FAQ about fats, and while you’re there explore other Nutrition FAQs.
- Keep your blood glucose at healthy levels. Watch your carbs and sugar. Use HPRC’s carbohydrate needs calculator to make sure you don’t get more than you need. As for sugar, save it for special occasions. Learn how to read Nutrition Facts labels and spot hidden sources.
If you follow these steps, get your own personal health plan from My Life Check® – Life's Simple 7, and combine information from HPRC’s domains, you’ll be well on your way to total fitness. Pass it on. Practiced by all service members and their families, it’s a huge step toward Total Force Fitness.
When working to build your concentration on one task, consider fixing problems and/or embracing new techniques. Ask yourself whether you’re trying to restore a level of performance that you previously achieved—or if you’re trying to boost your performance. Physical injuries, pain, medications, sleep deprivation, and addiction could distract you from the task at hand. Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can negatively impact your ability to focus too. Through successful treatment with a trained medical provider, your attention skills could likely be restored to previous levels.
If you’re aiming to enhance your focus capabilities and perform better than ever, you might want to try some mental performance techniques. These skills include goal-setting, self-talk habits, mental imagery, energy maximization, and organized routines to steer your attention. When developing a routine, you can become more aware of where your attention could go, and practice regularly guiding it to where you want it to go. As you develop practical habits, stay flexible and allow yourself to be spontaneous and adaptable when appropriate.
Heart disease is the #1 cause of death among adults in the U.S.—deadlier than any form of cancer. Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, overweight/obesity, family history, and smoking.
So what can you do to protect yourself protect yourself and your loved ones? First, know your risk factors. There are some things that you can’t change, such as your family history, sex, and age. But there are many things you CAN change through lifestyle choices.
Regular exercise can help you manage many risk factors such as weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. By now, you’ve probably forgotten about your New Year’s fitness resolutions! Get back on track: commit to at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity at least 5 days a week. You can even stay active at work!
Remember to make healthy food choices and manage your stress too. Check out the newest Dietary Guidelines for the latest recommendations on eating right. Reboot those fitness and nutrition resolutions to stay ready, resilient, and fit.