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Marines land at UO, leave with plans to wear Oregon-made training suits

EUGENE, Ore. -- (Oct. 10, 2007) -- A few came. They ran. They left. As a result of their August visit the U.S. Marine Corp begins training in 2008 in new running suits chosen after tests of competing products in the University of Oregon's environmental chamber.

The experience was enough to make both the University of Oregon and Beaverton-based InSport Inc. proud. UO researchers were unaware that it was InSport's training clothes that they had recommended until the company announced Oct. 2 that it had won a $14 million contract to produce the suits for the Marine Corps, said John Halliwill, a professor of human physiology and co-director of the UO's Exercise and Environmental Physiology Laboratories.

"The Marine Corps cold-called us and asked us to run tests for them and to report back to them," Halliwill said. "We weren't supposed to know who the suits came from, and, to be honest if someone had mentioned InSport to me last summer I wouldn't have known who they were talking about. But I do now."

Halliwill and lab co-director Christopher Minson led the testing, in which 29 Marines (22 men and seven women) jogged on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 6 mph and at a 2 percent incline on four separate occasions. The climate in the lab was manipulated to mimic two common training periods: either cool and humid early mornings (45 degrees Fahrenheit and 70-80 percent relative humidity) or warm and humid late mornings (55 degrees and 40-65 percent relative humidity).

The UO's state-of-the-art environmental chamber is a 12-foot-square room capable of simulating altitude up to 18,000 feet, holding temperature constant at a set point between 14 degrees and 122 degrees Fahrenheit, and controlling humidity anywhere from 10 percent to 95 percent. The chamber was installed in 2005, built with a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense and a $150,000 gift from Dave and Nancy Petrone of San Mateo, Calif. It can be switched from one extreme environment to another in 30 minutes, and the system allows researchers to monitor minute vascular and respiratory changes of subjects both at rest and when exercising.

"The Marines had a specific need to see how the suits performed during typical winter conditions at U.S. Marine bases such as Quantico and Camp Pendelton, but testing had to be completed during the summer so that the suits could be deployed in time for winter," Halliwill said. "We have the ability to create weather on demand, practically any climate or weather condition we want with the flip of a switch, so we were able to give them Base Quantico in winter even though it was August in Oregon.”

Each Marine was weighed immediately before and after each running session. Hearts were monitored throughout the sessions, and each subject was asked every five minutes about skin moisture, comfort and difficulty they perceived while in one of the jogging suits. Subjects each day took a two-hour break and then repeated the procedure a second time.

Researchers recorded heart rates, pre-exercise weight of the suits, changes in body weight in each run, moisture retained in suits and underwear and the moisture transferred into the environment.

"Dealing with cooler temperatures is not difficult in terms of clothing," Minson said. "What is difficult is moisture management. Even on relatively dry days, moisture from sweating can build up under a suit that does not ventilate well. This leads to less heat loss and less comfort. Most importantly, the excess moisture in clothes can lead to very rapid heat loss when exercise is stopped, which can be uncomfortable at best, but can be dangerous in certain circumstances. Moisture management is one of the areas where the material by InSport really stood out."

In the end, the Marines reported more comfort and a preference for "Design 2," which turned out to be InSport's product, over "Design 1," and, the researchers concluded in their report: "In our view, and we believe supported by the data, Design 2 is superior to Design 1 and should be considered for adoption by the Marine Corps."

The recommended product, according to participating Marines, generated less friction. Researchers noted that neither design was tested for wind- or water-proofness, which usually are important to people during their exercise regimens. There were few significant differences between the suits in the tested environments, but Design 2 weighed less before exercise, retained less moisture and allowed for better moisture transfer to the environment than the other product.


Contact: Jim Barlow
University of Oregon

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