NATICK, Mass., April 19, 2006 – The U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, along with the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine and the Army Physical Fitness School, has initiated a two-phased study to investigate potential weight and muscle loss in soldiers deployed to Afghanistan.
The formal study has been prompted by soldier observations and anecdotal evidence of weight/muscle loss, according to Marilyn Sharp, a research health exercise scientist in the Military Performance Division at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.
In February, Sharp's team, as well as U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine and the Army Physical Fitness School, collected data on several hundred soldiers who were set to deploy to Afghanistan.
Upon their return, the soldiers will be re-assessed to evaluate body composition changes.
Some of the soldiers will be trying out a new fitness program called Physical Readiness Training.
In Afghanistan, soldiers are often on the move, carrying heavy loads on physically demanding terrain under high altitude conditions, which can stress the heart and the lungs.
The loss of muscle mass and weight could impair the warfighter's ability to carry out his mission.
harp pointed out, "These soldiers are expending a great deal of energy in a high-altitude environment."
Physical readiness training strengthens muscle groups that enable soldiers to perform their duties more efficiently and with fewer injuries.
During the group's pre-deployment evaluation, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine documented fitness levels and recorded the Soldiers' body mass.
The soldiers were assessed in five areas: aerobic capacity, muscle strength, upper and lower body power, and body composition.
The soldiers also filled out lifestyle questionnaires to document health-related issues and exercise habits.
The questionnaire will track how habits change during deployment and how habits are affected by the new exercise program.
The data collected from the five fitness tests and from the questionnaire will be used to create a database capturing each soldier's overall physical condition. The soldiers will go through the five fitness tests again upon their return.
Scientists anticipate that the soldiers using the new exercise program will have fewer injuries, increased mobility, and be better able to perform their jobs.