Military members encouraged to join new fitness study

Military members encouraged to join new fitness study

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

The Ottawa-based Directorate of Fitness Team (DFIT) is looking for 80 volunteers from Esquimalt to take part in a high-tech fitness study beginning next week.

Armed with electrodes and heart monitors, members of the DFIT Team will study the heart beats and sleep patterns of approximately 600 Canadian Armed Forces members nationwide this year. It’s all part of an effort by the branch of Personnel Support Programs (PSP) and Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) to improve its current fitness strategy following a February 2015 directive from the Armed Forces Council.

Dr. Michael Spivock, Senior Manager Health Promotion Delivery PSP and co-author of the study, is encouraging anyone interested in taking part to enroll during information sessions at Naden Athletic Centre March 28, 29 and 30. 

Spivock says the latest study is a huge departure from standard data collection methods by DFIT because this new study does not rely on self-reporting methods such as standard health and fitness questionnaires, but instead hard science.

“It’s the first objective assessment of people’s true activity patterns,” said Spivock.

He noted those participating in the study will do so anonymously. Instead of their name, rank and personal details being collected, they will be given a number when they register with the purpose being to gain a general snapshot of CAF member fitness.

“Participants are being advised to be themselves and live their lives as they normally would,” said Spivock. “We tell them it is not a contest to see how physically active they are and how they stack up against others, but that we are trying to get a better sense of their heart rate, sleep patterns and how it relates to physical activity.”

Studies have already been completed at bases in Comox, North Bay and Kingston, and one was underway aboard HMCS Montreal during a six-day deployment last week.

After collecting data from the Pacific Fleet, the study will move on to Valcartier, Trenton and Petawawa in the coming weeks. Once the data is analyzed over the summer, Spivock says DFIT will then use their findings to make recommendations for improvements to the Fitness Strategy in late 2017 or early 2018. 

Collection of the data will be made easier as the heart monitor has a USB port and can be plugged into any non-DND computer, says Spivock. The heart monitors and electrodes are from First Beat Technologies, a Finland-based tech firm that produces a number of digitally-friendly monitoring devices in an effort to help researchers and individuals gain a more complete understanding of how their heart beat impacts stress, exercise, sleep patterns and overall health.

The upcoming two-hour information sessions at Naden will have participants create a profile on their measurement device.

“Then if they are up for it we will send them on their way to go about their lives as they normally would and have them return the device to us at the end of six days,” said Spivock.

Registration sessions will be held at the Naden Athletic Centre March 28, 29 and 30 between 10 a.m. and noon or 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and will be conducted by Dr. Julie Martin, DFIT Human Performance Research and Development Research Assistant and study co-author.

Interested volunteers are asked to make a request to participate through their chain of command and then register with LS Brandon Christenson at the Personnel Coordination Centre or email +ESQ MARPAC PCC TASKER@MARPAC@Esquimalt.

The session will include:

  • filling out a general questionnaire on your health
  • research team (Dr. Julie Martin from HQ and local PSP fitness staff) will measure participants height, weight, body composition, waist circumference and blood pressure
  • participants will wear a HR monitor attached to their skin with two electrodes 24 hours per day, six days in a row and take notes of their daily activities and sleep in a diary
  • participation is estimated to take five hours over the six-day duration
  • participants will be given an envelope with return information on it to return HR monitor to local PSP
  • if participant provides an email address the research team will provide them a detailed report on the data collected

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