Human performance research for military operations in extreme cold environments
Objectives. Soldier performance in the Arctic depends on planning and training, protective equipment, and human physiological limits. The purpose of this review was to highlight the span of current research on enhancing soldier effectiveness in extreme cold and austere environments. Methods. The practices of seasoned soldiers who train in the Arctic and cold-dwelling natives inform performance strategies. We provide examples of research and technology that further builds on these concepts. Results. Examples of current performance research include evaluation of equipment and tactics such as the bioenergetics of load carriage over snow in Norwegian exercises; Canadian field monitoring of hand temperatures and freezing cold injuries for better protection of manual dexterity; and Dutch predictive modeling of cold-wet work tolerances. Healthy young men can respond to cold with a substantial thermogenic response based on US and Canadian studies on brown adipose tissue and other mechanisms of non-shivering thermogenesis; the potential advantage of greater fat insulation is offset in obese unfit subjects by a smaller thermogenic response. Current physiological studies are addressing previously unanswered problems of cold acclimation procedures, thermogenic enhancement and regulation, and modulation of sympathetic activation, all of which may further enhance cold survival and expand the performance envelope. Conclusion. There is an inseparable behavioral component to soldier performance in the Arctic, and even the best equipment does not benefit soldiers who have not trained in the actual environment. Training inexperienced soldiers to performance limits may be helped with personal monitoring technologies and predictive models.
Arctic human performance
To reference this document use:
Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, S1440-2440