Physiological impact of load carriage exercise: current understanding and future research directions

Mark A. Faghy, Ren‐jay Shei, Nicola C. D. Armstrong, Mark White, Mitch Lomax

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Load carriage (LC) refers to the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and/or load-bearing apparatus that is mostly worn over the thoracic cavity. A commonplace task across various physically demanding occupational groups, the mass being carried during LC duties can approach the wearer's body mass. When compared to unloaded exercise, LC imposes additional physiological stress that negatively impacts the respiratory system by restricting chest wall movement and altering ventilatory mechanics as well as circulatory responses. Consequently, LC activities accelerate the development of fatigue in the respiratory muscles and reduce exercise performance in occupational tasks. Therefore, understanding the implications of LC and the effects specific factors have on physiological capacities during LC activity are important to the implementation of effective mitigation strategies to ameliorate the detrimental effects of thoracic LC. Accordingly, this review highlights the current physiological understanding of LC activities and outlines the knowledge and efficacy of current interventions and research that have attempted to improve LC performance, whilst also highlighting pertinent knowledge gaps that must be explored via future research activities.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere15502
Number of pages15
JournalPhysiological Reports
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2022


  • backpack
  • ergonomics
  • exercise tolerance
  • load carriage
  • occupational physiology
  • military physiology
  • respiratory muscles
  • weighted exercise
  • personal protective equipment


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