Ambulant Measurements of Physiological Status and Cognitive Performance during Sustained Operations
ROYAL NETHERLANDS ARMY UTRECHT
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The physical and mental strain on combat soldiers is often high. They are exposed to a combination of factors that all contribute to the work load. These factors may include sustained operations up to 72 hours of continuous work, changing climatologically circumstances, different terrains e.g. altitude, sleep deprivation, shift-work, nutritional shortage, and physical and chemical threats. Ambulant real-time monitoring of the strain to which soldiers are exposed may help prevent acute health problems e.g. heat casualties and overreaching overtraining injuries while also contributing to the prediction of the physical and cognitive performance of soldiers. The aim of this study was to gain insight into the level of cognitive performance of soldiers during sustained operations and to explore different methods to monitor the amount of strain environmental, stress, work, sleep soldiers experience during these operations. Methods Seventeen soldiers who participated in the Air Mobile Brigade training were measured during week 1, 3 and 5 of the training course. Cognitive performance memory, logical reasoning and vigilance was tested 5 times each week. Ambient temperature, WBGT, humidity, rain fall and wind speed were continuously measured by a weather station. Body weight and fat percentage measurements were performed at the start of each week and at the end of the training course. The soldiers wore a system that measured heart rate, skin temperature and core temperature. GPS systems were used to monitor the walking and running distance and speed. Military instructors rated the physical and mental strain of the training course and the soldiers filled out questionnaires about vigour, affect, need for recovery, perceived exertion, mental effort and sleep. Results Cognitive performance was significantly decreased as compared to baseline levels during the 3 test weeks.
- Stress Physiology