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.
Our bodies know when to sleep thanks to “circadian rhythms,” which are regulated by our brains on a 24-hour cycle. Circadian rhythms are linked to core body temperature, so ideally you should always sleep between 0300 and 0500, when your core body temperature is lowest and your performance abilities are at their lowest. Keep in mind that your individual circadian schedule is based on where you are and takes cue from environmental factors such as the sun and from social patterns. When crossing time zones, your internal clock needs time to adjust, which can take several days. Factors that influence this adaptation are:
- how many time zones are crossed, and
- whether you fly eastward or westward—the former takes longer to adjust.
Keep in mind that, in order to make up sleep or to adjust to a new zone, the best times to sleep are between 0300-0500 or 1300-1500.
For tips on how to improve your quality or length of sleep check out HPRC’s Sleep Optimization section, and for information on how sleep loss impacts all of the areas of Total Fitness check out HPRC’s Overview on sleep loss.
Strong Bonds is a chaplain-led Army initiative that helps build relationship resilience. Through education and skills training, the Strong Bonds mission is to increase soldier and family readiness. Offsite retreat-style training addresses the effects of stress on military lifestyle, with programs tailored for single soldiers, couples, and families.
Visit HPRC's Military Family Skills for more information on military-specific strategies for building relationship resilience.
June 25-29 marked the 2012 Army Drill Sergeant of the Year (DSOY) competition at Fort Eustis, Virginia. Drill sergeants are known as the cornerstone of Army readiness because they set the tone for soldiers’ entire military career. Four active-duty and two U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeants endured physical and mental challenges during the five-day competition. They were tested on their knowledge of Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills and their ability to teach these skills to new soldiers. The competition concluded with questions from a board of senior command sergeants on leadership and training.
The winning active-duty drill sergeant, Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Heilman, received the Stephen Ailes Award (named for the 1964-65 Secretary of the Army who was instrumental in originating the first Drill Sergeant School at Fort Leonard Wood, MO). The Army Reserve winner, Staff Sgt. Jared Moss, received the Ralph Haines Jr. Award (named for the 1970-72 commander of the Continental Army Command).
Watch highlights of this year’s competition!
The FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress) Project provides online resilience training for military families affected by deployment. The project is designed to address parents’ and children’s concerns about military-combat stress injuries and combat-related physical injuries and provide helpful strategies to build family resilience.
Parents can watch videos, download handouts, and participate in private online chats with family members. FOCUS includes resources and tools for Warfighters, spouses, and professionals—and even activities children and teens can participate in. For more information, visit HPRC's section on Military Family Workshops/Programs.
Think about this: Not getting enough sleep has a serious impact on how and what you think—your memory and concentration suffer, as do your awareness of your surroundings and your reaction time. Sleep loss affects your ability to make good decisions and puts you on edge, making you susceptible to your emotions. There’s more: Sleep loss also affects your ability to think positively and solve problems effectively. All of these are key factors in managing stress. Making good decisions now reduces your stress over the long term, and this can be compromised when you’re not at your peak. Bottom line: Focus on getting enough sleep to help you manage your stress.
For more on how to get better sleep, check out HPRC’s Mind Tactics information on sleep management. For how sleep loss affects all the areas of fitness, check out the HPRC’s Total Force Fitness article on The impact of sleep loss on total fitness.
The cool-down—a practice so engrained in our exercise habits that we assume it’s important. But, the truth is, the topic is understudied, and evidence for or against cooling down is still up for debate. What is a cool-down and what is it supposed to do? The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends a period of low- to moderate-intensity aerobic or muscular endurance activities after exercise to gradually reduce heart rate and blood pressure and remove metabolic byproducts from the system. For some, this may be a slow jog down the street, or an easy ride around the block after a workout with the hope of also preventing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The long-standing theory behind cooling down was that it helped to remove lactic acid from the system, a substance that could later cause muscle aches and soreness. However, it is believed that DOMS is the result of minor muscle damage due to novel or intense exercise, but we do know that lactic acid is not the culprit. During cool-down—active recovery—more lactic acid is removed from the system than during passive recovery, i.e., no cool-down. But is this a good thing? In a study of cyclists, researchers found that when subjects stopped exercise abruptly, lactic acid turned into glycogen, a fuel for the muscles. But when the cyclists gradually tapered off activity, less glycogen was made, leaving less energy for the muscles. These results indicate that cooling down might not be beneficial and may waste useful energy for the muscles.
On the other hand, a cool-down lowers elevated heart rates faster than passive recovery does and may prevent post-exercise dizziness. Stopping abruptly after exercise can cause blood to pool in the dilated vessels of the legs and feet, which may lead to a feeling of light-headedness and/or dizziness. Keep in mind, however, that these symptoms can also be related to other post-exercise conditions such as low blood sugar, low blood pressure, dehydration, or even hyponatremia. If you experience these symptoms, check with your doctor to find out if there are other causes.
Scientists agree that cooling down is also beneficial for people with cardiovascular conditions and heart disease where the coronary vessels are narrowed due to atherosclerosis (fatty deposits), as blood return to the heart may be compromised without it.
ACSM currently recommends at least 5-10 minutes of cool-down, with at least 10 minutes of stretching after exercise. However, more research is needed to determine the value and ideal recommendations for cooling down. If stopping exercise abruptly causes symptoms of light-headedness and dizziness, then a cool-down is a good idea.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found violations in manufacturing practices in half of almost 450 dietary supplement companies it has inspected over the last four years, according to a Chicago Tribune article. The implications of these findings can have serious health problems for consumers. Since dietary supplement manufacturers are the ones responsible for ensuring a product is safe before it is marketed, the FDA inspects companies to check for compliance and takes action only if a product is deemed unsafe after it has been marketed. For more information, see the FDA website’s Dietary Supplements section.
Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) will launch this summer, with answers to many of the questions you may have about Dietary Supplements. Watch for HPRC’s announcement coming soon.
Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) is a resilience-building program developed by the Army and based on 30 years of research in positive psychology and resilience building, also available for Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard warriors. CSF is designed to give Warfighters and their families the knowledge, skills, and behaviors to help them thrive and successfully adapt to life’s challenges in this era of high operational tempo and persistent conflict.
Family resilience training modules help couples prepare for deployment and the post-deployment transition at home. These are available online for anyone to access. Although geared towards deployment and reintegration, the skills and strategies taught in the modules are relevant for families and relationships of those not currently deployed, as well.
For more information on CSF, visit HPRC's Total Force Fitness section.
The Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling Series (NOFFS) is an important training program for sailors and Navy health professionals, combining sports science and injury prevention information to promote optimal human performance. The exercises in the series have been designed to train sailors for the types of activities they can expect to perform during operational duties. The NOFFS program is currently available as an app for iPhone, with on-the-go reference and training assistance right at your fingertips. The app features pictures, videos, and step-by-step exercise instruction, as well as nutrition tips and information. Download the app for free from the iTunes App Store!
A recent American Psychological Association press release focused on the overall effectiveness of brain training programs as explored in a review of research that appeared in the Journal of Developmental Psychology. It turns out that not only are these exercises ineffective for treating cognitive disorders such as ADHD, but their effectiveness on improving brain function and intelligence in healthy adults and children is minimal. In fact, the effects weren’t comprehensive and didn’t last long.
If you’re looking to increase cognitive performance, mindfulness training such as meditation may be a good bet. Although mindfulness meditation is a relatively young field of study, so far studies indicate that regular practice has a positive effect on memory, attention, and mood regulation.