To assess changes in body composition and monitor cognitive function, subjective well-being, and physiological stress, as measured by salivary hormones and markers of mucosal immunity, during an Antarctic expedition.
A 36-y-old man (188.2 cm height, 94.5 kg body mass) took part in a world-record attempt. A total-body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan and measurement of 8 skinfolds and 5 girths were performed before and after the expedition. In addition, daily subjective data were recorded (sleep quality, total hours of sleep, energy levels, perceived exertion, mood, muscle soreness, and muscle/joint pain) along with distance covered and hours of physical activity per day. As a measure of cognitive function, the athlete completed a computerized battery of tasks (Axon Sports Cognitive Priming Application) every third morning. Saliva samples were collected before, during, and after the expedition to determine salivary cortisol (sCort), testosterone (sT), alpha amylase (sAA), and secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA).
The athlete lost 5.3 kg body mass and sum of 8 skinfolds decreased from 73 mm to 59 mm from preexpedition to postexpedition. Psychomotor speed declined over the course of the expedition. sT increased and sCort decreased throughout, and sAA and sIgA peaked toward the end of the expedition.
This case study provides novel data about the physiological and cognitive impact of an Antarctic expedition. The findings may inform strategies for future expeditions, allowing individuals undertaking expeditions of this nature to better prepare for success.
Anton-Solanas, O’Neill, and Morris are with the GSK Human Performance Laboratory, Brentford, United Kingdom. Dunbar is with IPRO Interactive Ltd, Wallingford, United Kingdom.