Interaction of chemical defense clothing and high terrestrial altitudes on lift/carry and marksmanship performance

Stephen R. Muza, Ronald Jackson, Paul B. Rock, James Roach, Timothy Lyons, Allen Cymerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: The increased metabolic energy requirement imposed by a chemical defense uniform (CDU) and the lower maximal aerobic capacity associated with increased altitude should produce greater demands on the cardiopulmonary system during the performance of a given work task at increasing altitudes. We hypothesized that: a) relative to sea level, the decrements in physical work performance caused by ascending to high terrestrial altitudes would be greater in a CDU compared with a standard fatigue uniform (U.S. Army, BDU); b) the aversive subjective reactions to the CDU would be accentuated with increasing altitude; and c) that staging at moderate altitude, to induce acclimatization, would restore work performance at higher altitudes to sea level norms. Methods: The physiological and subjective responses of 8 male soldiers to work (10-min lift-and-carry task and rifle marksmanship) were measured. Subjects wore the BDU and a CDU ensemble (U.S. Army, BDU) at sea level, intermediate (2743 m) and high (4300 m) altitudes following rapid and staged (3 d at 1830 m) ascents to the higher altitudes. Results: Lift/carry task performance tended to be lower (p = 0.076) in the CDU vs. the BDU at altitude. The cardiopulmonary responses to the lift/carry task increased at altitude and were greater in the CDU. The subjects' perception of their ability to perform the lift/carry task at altitude was adversely impacted more in the CDU than the BDU. Rapid ascent to intermediate altitude degraded marksmanship in both uniforms. Following staged ascent, lift/carry task and marksmanship performance was restored to sea level norms. Conclusions: Personnel wearing CDU or equivalent protective clothing at intermediate to high terrestrial elevations should anticipate proportionally larger CDU-induced decrements of work performance and lower tolerance to working in a CDU than experienced near sea level. Staging at moderate altitude is an effective strategy for restoring work performance to sea level norms at higher altitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)668-677
Number of pages10
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2000


  • Altitude
  • Altitude acclimatization
  • Exercise
  • Marksmanship
  • Protective clothing
  • Pulmonary function
  • Respiratory protective device
  • Staged ascent


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