Tag Archives: exercise

Three Easy Tips for Improving Your Heart Health

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While Valentine’s Day gets the majority of the heart-related attention in February, there’s another reason to celebrate – February marks American Heart Month, an observance focused on raising awareness about maintaining a healthy heart through proactive prevention. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Even if you are young and healthy, it is important to begin tracking and monitoring your heart’s health. Healthy habits formed in early adulthood can have long-lasting positive impacts on your well-being. Although some individuals may face certain risk factors for this disease outside of their control, the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center outlines how certain medical conditions associated with heart health are “controllable, and entirely preventable in some cases with lifestyle changes.”

Here are a few ideas for improving your heart health:

Understand your potential risks. Consider making an appointment with your primary care physician at least once a year to exclusively discuss and evaluate your heart health.  Be open about your family history, discuss your current medications and routinely monitor your cholesterol. You can also use self-service blood pressure kiosks located at several pharmacies and drug stores to check-in on your levels. The American Heart Association’s My Life Check® self-assessment tool can provide insight in to your personal risk factors.

Get your heart pumping. While any form of routine exercise is likely to bolster your holistic health, this blog from Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends focusing on three types of exercise for your heart: aerobic, resistance training and flexibility-centric movements. Boosting your endurance and strength doesn’t always have to happen at a gym, and you can always consult your Command Fitness Leader for new ideas on how to stay active. No matter your preferred activity, reducing your stress levels through exercise can also improve your heart health.

Practice healthy eating. Ingredients found in processed food may lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even heart disease. Building balanced meals and incorporating healthy options as much as possible is important to maintaining your health. NHLBI’s comprehensive set of heart healthy eating resources offers recipe ideas and tailored eating plans. From avocado and shrimp spring rolls to banana oat cookies, this list of aggregated recipes by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Million Hearts® 2022 initiative outlines creative ideas for eating mindfully.

Improving your overall health doesn’t just start and end with making sure your heart is strong. Push forward with your other 2020 resolutions and your heart, as well as the rest of your body and mind, will thank you.

Is it SAD or the Winter Blues?

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If you find yourself feeling down during the coldest months of the year, you’re not alone. Whether on a ship or working shore duty, it can be challenging for Sailors to get outside and reap the benefits of natural sunlight, especially in winter.

Many people face the “winter blues” – a generally mild sadness that’s usually linked to something specific, like stressful holidays or reminders of absent friends or loved ones. The winter blues are unpleasant but usually short-term in duration. More severe sadness that sticks around longer may indicate that you are experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and not just the winter blues.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, about five percent of Americans suffer from SAD, a form of depression that can last 40 percent of the year and is usually most severe in January and February in the U.S. SAD is a clinical disorder that must be diagnosed by a professional.

SAD, like other forms of depression, can be debilitating, with symptoms that may affect every aspect of daily life. Some common symptoms include fatigue, mood swings and changes in appetite. The effects of SAD are typically seen in the winter months when there is less sunlight (though this may vary with geographic location) and symptoms usually improve with the arrival of spring. Whether it’s SAD or the more-common winter blues, there are steps you can take to help yourself and your shipmates.

Why Winter?

We all have an internal biological or circadian clock. This 24-hour “master clock” uses cues in your surroundings to help keep you awake and to help you sleep. Our circadian clocks are highly sensitive to changes in light and dark. When days are shorter and nights are longer, the body’s internal rhythm can be altered, and lead to changes in two specific chemicals, melatonin and serotonin.

At night, a gland in the brain produces and releases melatonin, a chemical that helps you sleep. Changes in season and sunlight can disrupt the normal levels of melatonin, contributing to disrupted sleep patterns and mood changes. Serotonin is a brain chemical affecting mood, and reduced sunlight can cause serotonin levels to plummet.

Lack of direct exposure to sunlight can also lead to deficiencies in Vitamin D. Strong associations have been found between vitamin D deficiency and depression, according to the Mayo Clinic. “Many who are Vitamin D deficient don’t know it,” said CAPT Tara Smith, Ph.D., clinical psychologist assigned to OPNAV N171. “it’s very hard to get outside the skin of the ship and feel the sun on your face underway, and even in Iraq you’re completely covered. Although it’s a sunny 135 degrees, you’re not getting any sun on your skin.” Being Vitamin D deficient can contribute to sadness, especially in winter.

Beating the Blues

There are several treatments used to help those suffering from seasonal mood changes. For SAD, these can include talk therapy, light treatments, vitamin regimens or medications. Although symptoms of the winter blues usually improve with the change of season there are a few ways you can help your body adjust:

  • Optimize your sleep. Fatigue can affect mood, performance, memory and judgement. Aim for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, preferably at the same time each day. If you can’t get that amount of uninterrupted sleep, compensating with a nap has proven benefits. Crew Endurance, developed by Naval Postgraduate School with collaboration from Navy’s Operational Stress Control Program, offers practical tips, research and operational tools for promoting adequate rest.
  • Choose foods that help to balance your mood. Studies indicate people who suffer from SAD may have lower levels of serotonin in the winter months. A balanced diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein can provide a natural source of serotonin. Try a breakfast of steel cut oatmeal, bananas and eggs for a mood-balancing boost. Check out this post for additional tips.
  • Go for a workout outdoors. It may be chilly, but exercising outdoors when possible during daytime hours can help you soak up some Vitamin D even when it’s not particularly sunny. Plus, physical activity improves your mood, helps you sleep, increases endurance and helps you navigate stress. Round up a few shipmates and go for a run around the flight-deck, try a group fitness class on your installation, sweat it out on the yoga mat or get fit with interval training.

When to Seek Help

It’s important to recognize that SAD is a serious condition and is characterized by the same symptoms as other forms of depression. Signs may include a sustained feeling of depression that occurs most days and most of every day, loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed, low energy and feelings of sluggishness, hopelessness or agitation. Sometimes, symptoms may start off mild and progress in severity over time. Symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency can mimic SAD, but also include issues like joint pain. If you suspect a Vitamin D deficiency, a simple visit to your Primary Care Manager (PCM) for a blood test can determine your levels, Smith said.

No one has to try and navigate seasonal depression or SAD alone. Reach out to a mental health provider at your command, installation or nearest military treatment facility, or seek confidential non-medical counseling from Military OneSource. If you feel hopeless or are thinking of suicide, get immediate help through the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, press 1.

For more information on psychological health and navigating stress, like U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook or follow @NavStress on Twitter. For additional resources, messages and materials, download the Every Sailor, Every Day campaign’s FY-19 1 Small ACT Toolkit.

Think You Need Equipment to Exercise? Think again!

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Editor’s Note: In honor of Navy Fitness Month, LCDR Heath Clifford of the Navy Physical Readiness Program has provided Every Sailor, Every Day with the second installment of how to exercise with limited space and gym equipment. Learn how to work out on a time, space and equipment “budget” and check out the newest minimalist fitness workouts below!

It has been well documented that one of the best ways to alleviate stress is through exercise.  Sailors face many challenges in balancing family life with the Navy’s current operational tempo.  In this crunch for time, all too often physical fitness is placed on the back burner.  Combine the lack of time and limits of space and equipment, Sailors find it difficult to maintain an adequate level of fitness especially during periods of deployment, causing stress levels to soar.  Utilizing input from over 750 Sailors, in 2009 Navy Subject Matter Experts worked closely with Athletes’ Performance Institute (API) to develop a program that would combat these barriers.

What is Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System?

The Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System (NOFFS) is designed to provide the Navy with a “world class” training resource for fleet Sailors.  Using the latest sports science methodologies, NOFFS combines both human performance and injury prevention strategies, resulting in safer training while yielding positive human performance outcomes.  The exercises used in the NOFFS system are designed to replicate the activities Sailors conduct in their operational duties: lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying.

The NOFFS contains four specialized series tailored for use on submarines, surface ships, large decks, and for group physical training.  Designed specifically for real-world space and equipment limitations, these four categories provide Sailors three different levels of exercises that are based on current fitness and capability and can be used safely without supervision or direction.

A Pentagon of Parts.

The training session will consist of 5 training components:

  1. Pillar Preparation: consists of your hips, torso and shoulders and represents the foundation for all your movement.  “Pillar Prep” primes these critical muscles to prepare your body for the work ahead- helping to protect you from injury and boost your performance during your training session.
  2. Movement Preparation: lengthen, strengthen, and stabilize your body.  “Movement Prep” consists of a series of active and dynamic stretches to help you to move.
  3. Strength: strengthen the movements needed to perform on an operational platform.  Close attention must be payed to the quality of your movement.  Select a resistance that you feel challenged with for the number of reps prescribed (body weight to bands).
  4. Cardiovascular Fitness: boost your endurance, leg strength and speed through a variety of interval training options.  The movements in this component are designed to target and develop your energy systems while efficiently burning calories.
  5. Recovery: a critical component to any training program, recovery brings balance back to your body, helping to relieve tension and the associated aches and pains while enhancing your body’s response to the training.

Break a Sweat!

The following is a challenging total body workout from the Surface Ship Series to be utilized in a confined space environment with limited equipment.  All 5 training components are addressed in this workout.

NOFFS SUFACE SHIP SERIES – LEVEL 1

Pillar Preparation (1 circuit/6 reps)

  1. Pillar Bridge (hold 30 seconds)
  2. Glute Bridge (hold 30 second)
  3. Y’s – Deck
  4. 90/90 Stretch

Movement Preparation (1 circuit/4 reps)

  1. Mini Band – External Rotation
  2. Reverse Lunge, Elbow to Instep – Kneeling
  3. Lateral Squat – Alternating
  4. Knee Hug – In Place
  5. Drop Lunge
  6. Inverted Hamstring w/ Support

Strength

Circuit 1 (x2/8 reps):
1.       Glute Bridge (reps)
2.       Push Up (Standard)
3.       Squat w/Mini Band
4.       Y’s – Bent Over (Bands)
Circuit 2 (x1/8 reps)
1.       Lateral Squat – Low Alternating
2.       Overhead Press – ½ Kneeling (bands)
3.       Lateral Pillar Bridge (30 sec hold/each side)
4.       Straight Leg Lowering – Alternating

Cardiovascular Fitness:  Perform each movement for 15 seconds and immediately transition into the next movement for the duration of the circuit. Rest 90 seconds between circuits, then repeat the circuit.

  1. Reverse Lunge – Alternating
  2. Pillar Bridge w/Arm Lift
  3. Lateral Lunge – alternating
  4. Forward Lunge, Elbow to Instep – w/Rotation
  5. Plank Running
  6. Single Leg Balance – Alphabet
  7. Split Squat – Alt. 5 sec Holds
  8. Drop Lunge – Alternating

Recovery (no equipment needed):  Hold each stretch for 2 seconds while exhaling, then relax back to the start position and continue for 10 reps each.  DO NOT BOUNCE through the end range of the stretch.

  1. Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch
  2. Knee Hug – Supine
  3. Leg Cradle – Supine
  4. Quad/Hip Flexor Stretch – ½ kneeling
  5. Triceps Stretch
  6. 90/90 w/Arm Sweep

Learn More:

NOFFS continues to grow in popularity fleet-wide. CFLs are being taught introductory courses within the 5-day initial certification course and can also receive short course certification through the CFL 2-day seminars.  For more information on the complete NOFFS Series, including exercises videos, visit https://www.navyfitness.org/fitness/noffs-training or download the NOFFS app online.

About the Blogger:

LCDR Heath Clifford, OPNAV N17 CFL Program Manager, is a certified Aerospace Physiologist by the Aerospace Medical Association with 14 years’ experience as a Naval Aerospace/Operational Physiologist with expertise in Exercise Physiology and Water Survival Training as well.  He is an avid swimmer and outdoor enthusiast and believes that nutrition, sleep, and fitness are the foundations of mission readiness and operational success.

5 Small ACTs to Help You Chill Out

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Whether it’s strain and pressure within your unit as you work long hours to prepare for deployment, a disagreement with your spouse over something trivial that boils over, or a seemingly innocent debate with a friend that goes the wrong way, we can all expect to be blindsided by heated moments. Your reactions come quickly and before you know it, your heart is racing, your face is red and you’re saying the first thing that comes to mind (and that thing may not necessarily help the situation).

While disagreement and tension are normal and can even contribute to strengthening relationships, they can surely leave their mark if not carefully addressed. Unchecked anger and unresolved issues can fester, impacting the individuals directly involved, other colleagues or family members, and the mission at-hand. By taking a moment to be proactive, you can help to keep the pot from boiling over by exploring strategies to defuse intense situations.

Just in time for warmer weather and Mental Health Month, here are 5 Small ACTs to help you chill out:

Push Pause. The moment you see potential for a situation or conversation to escalate, call a time out. A lengthy explanation isn’t needed; just step back and offer to address things once all parties involved have had a chance to clear their heads and approach the problem calmly. Even if it’s just five minutes, creating some space between yourself and the issue can help you get a grasp on how you feel, what’s truly important and how you can work with others to move forward.

Breathe. This simple act is often taken for granted, but is an important first step in trying to get your emotional and physiological responses in check when the tension is rising. Taking a deep breath (two to three second inhale and exhale) can help to induce calm in the midst of calamity. If you have a few moments to yourself and can find a quiet space, try this Quick Fix Breathing Exercise or check out the exercises on the National Center for Telehealth and Technology’s Breathe2Relax app.

Laugh. Laughter can help thwart the release of stress hormones, kick-starting the production of hormones that are responsible for positively balancing your mood and promoting relaxation. Look at a funny GIF, head to your favorite blog or talk to someone who knows how to bring a smile to your face. A quick laugh can help you change the channel if you’re focused on a negative situation and enable you to approach a solution with a smile :).

Hit the gym, the track or the trails. You may find that your most productive days in the gym or your best run happen when you need to vent some frustration. Building exercise into your daily routine can help to burn negativity and rewire your brain after tense times. Whether it’s a run with a friend or mentor, weightlifting, interval training or yoga, turn to your favorite fitness regimen to maximize the mood-boost.

Communicate. If your situation involves conflict with another person, addressing it directly can lead to finding some common ground and getting things back on track sooner. Staying silent may only feed your emotions, leading to continued drama. When talking it out, try to use a neutral tone, make eye contact and explain how you perceived the issue or what led to the misunderstanding from your perspective. State that you would like to find a resolution that works for all parties involved (which may include compromising), and then actively listen to the other person or people involved. Instead of listening with the intent to dispute, make a point or interrupt, actually hear and process what the person is saying to you. Then restate it back in your own words to ensure that you have an understanding. Clarify whenever necessary and allow for natural silence, even when it may feel awkward. This will enable you to respond appropriately and meaningfully, minimizing the potential for a heated exchange. Other forms of communication may help you chill out by expressing your feelings, including journaling or speaking with a neutral person, such as a peer support advocate.

Before you land in your next heated moment, take some time to acknowledge what actions, words, topics or gestures are most likely to provoke you. Then note how you may react when these buttons are pushed. Taking this honest look at yourself proactively can help you keep off-the-cuff reactions at bay, enabling you to navigate issues calmly, learn from them and move forward. You may not be able to control others’ behavior or external situations, but with a little prep you can control your responses to them.

BONUS: Anger affecting your daily life? Check out this article from our partners at Real Warriors to help you identify your signs of anger and learn to navigate them in a healthy way. For more information on the Real Warriors campaign, visit www.realwarriors.net.

5 Benefits of Working Out with a Buddy

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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog post provided courtesy of Guard Your Health. More information and tools are available at www.guardyourhealth.com.

We all know that staying fit and exercising is important. We also know that staying motivated to work out on a regular basis can be hard.

That’s why finding a good workout buddy is one of the smartest fitness moves you can make. Working out with a buddy can give you:

1. Motivation

When you work out by yourself, it’s easy to lose motivation. A buddy will support you and cheer you on to help you reach your fitness goals.

2. Accountability

It’s easy to bail on your own workout. But it’s much harder to ditch a workout when you know you’re going to be letting someone else down. Having a reliable workout buddy will help you stick to your goals.

3. Friendly Competition

As humans, we like to be competitive—even if it’s just good, friendly competition among friends. A buddy will challenge and push you to do more than you might do alone.

4. Companionship

Working out can be boring, especially during long cardio sessions. Having a buddy to talk with while working out will make the time go by faster.

5. Workout Variety

A buddy can share new exercises or workouts so that you can switch up your routine. This will keep your workouts fresh, as well as keep you motivated to try new moves.

So who qualifies as a good workout buddy? Here are some tips of what to look for when choosing one:

  • A good attitude. You want someone who is encouraging and positive.
  • A compatible style of motivation. You may need a drill sergeant to get motivated, or maybe a cheerleader.
  • Similar schedules. You want someone who is dependable, as well as available to consistently work out with you at the same times.
  • Similar fitness goals. You need to share similar fitness goals to be effective workout partners.
  • You want someone who makes working out enjoyable and even fun.

Finding a workout buddy can be as easy as looking around the gym during your workout, or calling a fitness-minded friend.

Want More?

Navy Suicide Prevention Branch is a proud partner of Guard Your Health (www.guardyourhealth.com), a health and medical readiness campaign for Army National Guard Soldiers and their families sponsored by the Army National Guard Chief Surgeon’s Office. Guard Your Health provides Army National Guard Soldiers with the information, motivation, and support to overcome challenges and make healthy decisions for themselves, their families, and their units. To learn more about improving your health, visit the Guard Your Health website, like “Guard Your Health” on Facebook, and follow @ARNGHealth on Twitter. For more tips to max your APFT and stay mission ready, subscribe to FitText, Guard Your Health’s text message program, by texting FIT to 703-997-6747.