Can GPS be used to accurately track Energy Expenditure during a Load March?

Research Paper Title

Complex Terrain Load Carriage Energy Expenditure Estimation Using Global Positioning System Devices.


Military load carriage can cause extreme energy expenditure (EE) that is difficult to estimate due to complex terrain grades and surfaces. Global Positioning System (GPS) devices capture rapid changes in walking speed and terrain but the delayed respiratory response to movement is problematic. The researchers investigated the accuracy using GPS data in three different equations to estimate EE during complex terrain load carriage.


Twelve active duty military personnel (age, 20 ± 3 yr; height, 174 ± 8 cm; body mass, 85 ± 13 kg) hiked a complex terrain trail on multiple visits under different external load conditions. Energy expenditure was estimated by inputting GPS data into three different equations: the Pandolf-Santee equation, a recent GPS-based equation from de Müllenheim et al.; and the Minimum Mechanics model. Minute-by-minute EE estimates were exponentially smoothed using smoothing factors between 0.05 and 0.95 and compared with mobile metabolic sensor EE measurements.


The Pandolf-Santee equation had no significant estimation bias (-2 ± 12 W; P = 0.89). Significant biases were detected for the de Müllenheim equation (38 ± 13 W; P = 0.004) and the Minimum Mechanics model (-101 ± 7 W; P < 0.001).


Energy expenditure can be accurately estimated from GPS data using the Pandolf-Santee equation. Applying a basic exponential smoothing factor of 0.5 to GPS data enables more precise tracking of EE during non-steady-state exercise.


Potter, A.W., Santee, W.R., Mullen, S.P., Karis, A.J., Blanchard, L.A., Rome, M.N., Pitts, K.P. & Looney, D.P. (2018) Complex Terrain Load Carriage Energy Expenditure Estimation Using Global Positioning System Devices. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 50(10), pp.2145-2149. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001669.


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