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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.

Fight the effects of bullying with exercise

Filed under: Children, Exercise, Teens
The mental health benefits of exercising for children and teens are just as important as the physical ones.

Children and teens face a lot of challenges these days, but exercise can help, even in such seemingly unrelated situations as bullying, a form of peer aggression. Bullying recently has come to the forefront as a public health concern. While the best solution is to prevent it, there are ways to cope and manage the effects of being bullied (such as depression, sadness, and decreased self-worth). Exercise can serve as a buffer against effects of being bullied. Bullied teens who regularly exercise at least 60 minutes a day, 4 days a week, are less likely to experience sadness or hopelessness. That’s important when you also consider that these feelings sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts among teens. Encouraging your child to participate in some kind of physical activity can help him or her conquer social obstacles while building good habits for a healthy adulthood. By also making physical activity a family matter, you can lead by example.  Learn more about how to prevent bullying and consult a healthcare professional and a school counselor if you’re concerned that your child might be a victim of bullying. 

Tart cherry juice for muscle soreness?

Drinking tart cherry juice might offer one more way to get relief from tough workouts.

Tart cherry juice might help soothe muscle pain after exercise, especially intense or long workouts. A few studies researched how drinking tart cherry juice affects muscle soreness and pain following different types of exercise. Participants drank tart cherry juice 5­­–7 days before exercise (such as running a marathon). Those who drank the tart cherry juice instead of the placebo experienced a decrease in intensity and duration of muscle pain, but these measurements weren’t consistent from study to study, and not all measures of muscle pain improved. However, tart cherry juice does contain anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Keep in mind that research participants drank 8–12 oz of tart cherry juice twice daily. Drinking that amount could add 260–390 calories per day to your diet, mostly from sugar. Too many calories and not enough exercise to balance it out can lead to weight gain. If you enjoy drinking tart cherry juice, then consider adding it to your nutrition plan. In addition to stretching and foam rolling after your workouts, it could help you experience less muscle soreness.

Kratom concerns

Kratom use is on the rise, but is it safe?

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa korth) is marketed and regulated as a dietary supplement in the United States, yet this psychostimulant has numerous side effects. It’s a tropical tree in Malaysia and has been used as an herbal drug for years. However, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration says it is not approved for use in dietary supplements.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has an FAQ on kratom, which includes pertinent information from the Drug Enforcement Administration. Also visit other OPSS FAQs on various dietary supplement ingredients.

Planning a home birth? Be prepared!

Deciding whether or not to birth at home is a big decision, but if you’re thinking about it, follows these tips and develop a solid plan.

If you’re considering giving birth at home, make an informed choice, including a plan that lays out expenses, your nearest hospital, your delivery team, and more. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists (ACOG) both say that hospitals and birthing centers are the safest places for birth in the U.S. However, they also recognize the right to make a medically informed decision about where and how to give birth. If you’re considering home birth, here are some specific suggestions to help you make safe decisions. Read more here.

Improving mood with food

Mindful eating can help you make better decisions and transform your whole eating experience!

“You are what you eat” means that food affects your physical AND emotional health! A tip that also helps your mood is to stay away from “comfort foods.” Choose foods that give you more steady energy, such as an orange or raisins (not ice cream or fries). This might be old advice, but here’s a new twist: Eat that snack mindfully!

By practicing mindfulness before you eat, when you’re feeling a craving, and while you eat, you can overcome binge eating, eating to soothe emotional concerns, and impulses triggered by yummy sights, sounds, or smells. It helps you understand your motivation. Are you eating because you’re hungry and it’s time to eat? Or is it a “quick fix” for your stress or worries?

Once you’re eating, instead of analyzing why you’re eating or focusing on other tasks such as texting, be mindful of the eating experience, embracing the experiences of smell, taste, temperature, and texture. You may find yourself slowing down and enjoying your food more!

Before diving into your next snack or meal, think about what you’re eating and be mindful of why. Here’s a simple example of how you can weave mindful eating into your daily life: You might notice that it’s 3pm, and you’ve had nothing to eat since that healthy lunch, and you need a pick-me-up, so you reach for an orange. Now, mindfully enjoy each part of the experience as you peel the orange, noticing the textures inside and outside, the stickiness, the spray, and the smell. Notice how you salivate with the anticipation of citrus acids, and the moment when the piece of orange hits your tongue, followed by squirts of flavor, and changing texture. Enjoy!

Massage therapy and muscle recovery

Filed under: Massage, Recovery
Sports massages may be beneficial for your recovery after a workout, as well as relaxing!

Getting a sports massage after a hard workout could help relieve muscle soreness and improve recovery. Sports massages typically focus on those areas of the body that are specific to a sport or activity. These kinds of massages decrease inflammation and promote blood circulation, allowing for the delivery of essential nutrients such as oxygen to damaged muscles, resulting in faster recovery. Symptoms such as pain, tenderness, muscle weakness, and discomfort associated with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) contribute to a decreased recovery process. If you’re able, treat yourself to a 10- to 15-minute sports massage after an intense workout such as resistance training or endurance events. If a sports massage isn’t possible, self-massage such as foam rolling can also reduce the effects of DOMS and increase blood flow to your muscles.

Don’t let supplements send you to the ER

HPRC Fitness Arena: Dietary Supplements
Filed under: Drugs, OPSS, Supplements
Some supplements can have serious adverse effects and lead you to seek medical help. But there are things you can do to stay safe and out of the emergency room.

It is estimated that more than 20,000 Americans go to an emergency room every year for reasons related to dietary supplements such as allergic reactions and adverse events, according to a government study. Adverse events can result from ingredients in dietary supplements themselves or from drug-supplement interactions and can have serious side effects. Among adults, common complaints include chest pain and increased heart rate and are often associated with weight-loss products, energy products, bodybuilding products, and sexual-enhancement products.

Before taking any dietary supplement, talk to your doctor and be an informed consumer. It can prevent a health scare and even could save your life! For more information, please visit Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS), including the OPSS High-Risk Supplement List. And for more information about this study, read this article from MedlinePlus.

SoFAS weighing you down?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition
SoFAS are found in many foods and can increase your risk for disease. Learn how to spot them in foods.

It’s time to get off the SoFAS! No, we don’t mean your couch (but that’s a good idea too). We’re talking about solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS).

Solid fats are solid at room temperature and are found in foods such as butter, cheese, meats, and foods made with these products, such as cookies, pizza, burgers, and fried foods. Solid fats include both saturated and trans fats, which raise “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, increasing your risk for heart disease.

Added sugars can contribute to weight gain and tooth decay. Although some foods such as fruit and milk contain naturally occurring sugars, added sugars are usually found in processed foods such as sodas, sports or energy drinks, candy, and most dessert items. It can be hard to identify added sugars on food labels, but you can learn how to recognize hidden sources of sugar.

Foods containing SoFAS are often high in calories but don’t provide important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, or fiber. Start cutting back on SoFAS by following a few simple tips:

  • Prepare more meals at home and cook with olive oil instead of butter. Olive oil provides healthy fats that can improve your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk for heart disease.
  • Switch from soda to sparkling water. Sparkling water is free of added sugars, but comes in a variety of flavors, so you’re bound to find one that you like!
  • Trade in chips, dip, and cookies for fruits, veggies, nuts, and hummus or guacamole. Nutrient-packed snacks are generally lower in calories but will keep you going throughout the day.

Remember, this doesn’t mean you can’t eat any foods with SoFAS. Just be aware of what foods contain them, eat them less often, and watch your portion sizes for better health and performance.

Bibliotherapy: Feel better through books

HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships, Mind Body
Filed under: Anxiety, Self-help
Reading certain kinds of books can actually improve your mood and anxiety.

Do you know that some self-help books have been scientifically shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and change behaviors? “Bibliotherapy” uses books in two ways: First, it can inspire you to reflect on a certain topic, often by identifying with a story’s character. Second, it can give you structured approaches to address specific problems. Bibliotherapy can be useful for self-help, but it’s often most effective when paired with expert guidance or psychotherapy. The approach can target everyday concerns and is effective with adults of all ages, dealing with issues such as depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, addictions, insomnia, eating disorders, and migraines. Bibliotherapy can also help children and even assist parents to help their children become less anxious.

For structured approaches, the emphasis is often one of the following:

  • Experiencing new ways to think about your situation so you also can explore new emotions and new behaviors.
  • Letting your values guide your behaviors while you tune into and accept whatever difficult emotions you’re facing.
  • Recognizing how you usually relate to other people and making thoughtful choices about how you want to relate to others moving forward.

If you decide to use the self-help approach without a therapist, it’s likely to be most helpful if you’re already feeling motivated and energized to invite change into your life. Bibliotherapy can educate and empower you or your family, boost your awareness, and enable you to make self-directed change. 

If you think bibliotherapy might be useful to you, consult a mental health professional and/or a librarian for recommendations. You also can explore the American Psychological Association’s Bibliotherapy page, as well as the Department of Veteran Affairs Bibliotherapy Resource Guide.

Communication during deployment

HPRC would like to recognize Day of the Deployed (October 26th) with some tips for communication during your loved one’s deployment.

Members of the military community know how hard it can be to be separated during deployments for months at a time, but even with miles between your loved ones, there are ways to communicate and connect. October 26th marks the Day of the Deployed, a day set aside to recognize the devotion and sacrifice of our military personnel who serve and their families who live outside our nation. The National Day of the Deployed pays tribute to those whose military service has sent them outside the United States to ensure its safety and security.

Lengths and frequency of deployments are always changing. Most service members have been deployed at least once and often for stretches of 3.5–12 months. One way service members can communicate with people back home is through letters. In fact, writing letters can help improve relationship satisfaction more than other forms of communication. It’s easier to ensure privacy with a letter than with email or phone. More importantly, letters provide the writer opportunities to reread their work and take the time to express what they really mean.

There is no best formula for what to write in your letter. Couples can agree on rules for communication by talking through and finding agreement on what works well for both partners, such as staying away from certain topics. It’s sometimes best to keep the focus positive, saving tense topics for later. Some may prefer to keep open communication to help maintain a sense of intimacy. Keep the guesswork out of what to write by talking about it, and then enjoy the connection you experience through letter writing.

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