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It’s Men’s Health Awareness Month

The Military Health System has declared June as Men’s Health Awareness Month. Exercise, good nutrition, and regular screenings can help keep you healthy.

The best ways for men of any age to stay healthy include understanding risk factors, exercising regularly, eating right, and getting screened for potential health issues. Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death among men. The good news is that exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk for these illnesses. Visit your doctor for routine checkups too.

The Military Health System has declared June as Men’s Health Awareness Month. Wear Blue Day is Friday, June 17. Wear blue to help raise awareness about men’s health issues. Help spread the word that good-health habits keep them fit and strong. And visit HPRC’s Exercise section for information on strength training, fitness guidelines, and more.

PFT/PRT prep—Part 1: Aerobic conditioning

The PFT/PRT is designed to test your cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength. In this three-part series, HPRC takes a closer look at each component, offers tips on training optimization, and suggests how to prevent common training-related injuries.

Preparation for your Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT) takes time and discipline. Training for the test isn’t something you should start the month before the test, and the habits you develop leading up to the test should be ones you continue even after the test. Weekend warriors and procrastinators are at greater risk for injury, and it’s likely that your performance will be less than optimal when it comes time for the test.

If you’re just getting back into shape, be sure to do it gradually. Once you’ve resumed a regular exercise routine, you might notice some aches and pains. Listen to your body. Watch out for symptoms of common athletic injuries such as overuse injuries and knee pain. It’s important to address these issues early to minimize any damage and get you back in action as soon as possible. Maintaining your exercise routine after the PFT/PRT and challenging yourself along the way will keep you in warrior-athlete shape year round and prevent deconditioning.

HPRC provides a series of articles with guidelines to help you prepare for the PFT/PRT, beginning with this one on aerobic conditioning. Read more...

Exergaming: Is it really exercise?

There are lots of exercise video games on the market, but should they really be considered exercise?

Between the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and the continuing popularity of video games among children, does exergaming actually count as physical activity? Exergaming, or exercise video gaming, is popular among children and adults because it offers entertainment and physical activity. Exergames include:

  • Virtual cycling
  • Interactive climbing machines
  • Aerobics, dancing, and floor games for multiple video game platforms
  • Mobile exercise games for smartphones and tablets

While it’s certainly fun, studies suggest that exergaming is not the best form of exercise for kids. It does increase energy expenditure (compared to rest), but it’s not necessarily enough to meet your children’s exercise needs. For example, when compared to a phys ed class, exergaming fell short. For the most part, kids who play exergames don’t burn enough calories or increase their heart rates enough to make up for exercising.

The good news about exergaming is that it can increase motivation and keep children engaged. It could be a great starting point for inactive children needing to begin a physical activity routine. It can be part of the daily-recommended doses of exercise and physical activity for kids and teens too. Families could find it as a fun alternative to sitting on the couch and watching a movie or TV show. Exergaming might be better than sitting and playing video games, but it shouldn’t replace more vigorous activities such as outside play. Save the exergaming for the next rainy or snowy day!

Winter dehydration

Heading out into the cold? Remember to stay hydrated!

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.

Too sick to exercise?

Feeling under the weather? Find out when bed rest is best—or when it’s safe to sweat it out.

Is it safe to exercise when you’re sick? Those who have strict workout schedules aren’t likely to let the sniffles get in the way of their physical fitness. Exercise benefits include better weight control, improved mood, more energy, and healthier sleep. What’s more, just 30 minutes of regular exercise 5 times each week can improve your heart health and boost your immune system too.

 

Moderately exercising while you’re sick can be safe and, in certain cases, might actually improve symptoms such as congestion and low-energy. First, you need to determine “how sick is sick.” You can figure this out by using the “neck rule.” If you have symptoms above the neck—including sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, or watery eyes—then moderate workouts can continue. If your symptoms are below the neck—including cough, fever, fatigue, or body aches—then rest until the symptoms are gone. You can also use your temperature to determine whether exercising is okay. If you have a temperature of 101°F or higher, moderate or vigorous exercise isn’t safe due to risks of heat-related illnesses and dehydration.

 

Ultimately, the decision to exercise when you’re sick is up to you. If you’re too weak and fatigued to get out of bed, exercising might not be the best choice. If you have symptoms of a cold and your temperature is below 101°F, light to moderate exercise could be good for you. Make sure to see a doctor if your symptoms don’t improve or get worse. 

Running form 101

Filed under: Exercise, Running
How’s your form? Make sure you’re ready to hit the ground—running!

Proper running form can help improve your overall efficiency and reduce your risk for injury. We’ve all seen awkward running forms—you can’t help but wince because it looks challenging and sometimes painful to run that way. Following a few simple reminders can keep you injury-free as you reach peak performance.

Running infographic

Chill out and keep moving!

You don’t have to hibernate during the colder months. Exercising in the cold takes a little extra planning to stay safe and comfortable.

Don’t let cold weather freeze your exercise routine. Use these tips to stay motivated, safe, and warm.

  • 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 can always remove layers as you get warmer.
  • Protect your extremities—especially your fingers, toes, and ears. Circulation to these areas decreases in cold weather.
  • 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 or the temperature drops below 0°F.
  • 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 to cold temperatures or stress). Talk to a healthcare professional about your concerns before heading outside for your cold-weather workout.

Overcome your weight-loss plateau

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Can’t seem to lose those last few pounds? Here are some tips to help you get past the plateau and back on track to achieving your goal.

Have you been watching what you eat and exercising regularly, but for some reason, the scale just won’t budge? You might be at a “plateau” in your weight-loss journey. But with continued effort and persistence, you can do it! If you want to shed those last few pounds, try these ideas on for size:

  • Track it. To keep old, unhealthy eating habits at bay, keep a food diary or record your intake through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) SuperTracker. This online program helps you see where your calories are coming from. Don’t forget to watch your portion sizes too.
  • Stick to your plan. Remember the fundamentals of a healthy eating plan: nutrient-rich, lean sources of protein such as fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and low-fat dairy products. Make sure to include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables too. It’s okay to indulge a little, but too many “cheat days” can ruin all your hard work.
  • Eat protein. Protein helps preserve lean body mass (muscle) during weight loss, promote fat loss, and contribute to a feeling of fullness. Use HPRC’s Protein Requirements infosheet to calculate your individual protein needs.
  • Rethink your drinks. Alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, sweet tea, juice, energy drinks, and sports drinks can add too many calories and prevent you from losing weight. Stick to water and low-fat milk (or soymilk) during meals and in-between to stay hydrated. Three servings of milk per day is the limit though!
  • Shake things up. Varying the type, intensity, duration, and frequency of your exercise is a great way to challenge yourself and prevent boredom—and it can make a big difference toward reaching your goal.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is better for your health, career, and performance.

You’ve got questions?

We’ve got answers. Learn more about staying physically fit in HPRC’s FAQ and Ask the Expert sections.

Looking for some answers to basic fitness questions? You’re not alone. We’ve created a FAQ section on topics we hear a lot about. Whether you want to know about flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, injury prevention, or workout routines—we have the answers. Still can’t find what you’re looking for? Submit your question using our Ask the Expert feature. We’ll provide an evidence-based answer to keep you informed and in shape.

Check back often to learn the latest and greatest information on exercising, optimizing performance, and staying resilient. 

Enjoy your run without "the runs"

Having the urge “to go” during a workout isn’t unusual for endurance athletes. There are steps you can take that could get you to the finish line accident-free

There’s an unpleasant situation that runners sometimes experience called “runners’ trots” or diarrhea. While short lasting and generally harmless, they can be annoying and cost you time during training or a race.

Certain activities such as high-intensity or long-duration exercise and vertical-impact sports (e.g., running vs. biking) increase your risk of gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort. Dehydration, poor conditioning, medication, and eating habits can cause GI irritation too. Despite the lack of hard evidence as to what causes these GI issues, there are things you can do to help settle your stomach:

  • Avoid trying new foods or sports drinks during a race.
  • Increase the time between eating and activity. Wait at least 3 hours after eating a large meal, or eat a smaller meal or snack closer to training time.
  • Plan out your meals, especially for endurance events.
  • Pay attention to what you eat to help identify foods that increase your discomfort during running. It’s best to avoid these until after you finish your race.
  • Limit your intake of gas-forming or fiber-rich foods (e.g., broccoli, onions, and beans).
  • If you’re sensitive, avoid coffee and other forms of caffeine before a run.
  • Hydrate before and during endurance activities; it will help blood flow to the GI area.
  • If you use sports gels or chews for endurance events, drink enough water (three to eight ounces every 15–20 minutes) to stay hydrated.
  • Give yourself time to use the bathroom before an endurance exercise.
  • Increase distance and intensity gradually.

If symptoms persist for more than a few days, even at rest, seek medical attention. Enjoy your run!

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