There's no denying that soldiers are among the most physically fit individuals in the country. After all, they have to be, given that they're often tasked with carrying heavy gear all while performing a physically demanding job. In an effort to better understand how carrying all that weight affects their bodies, researchers in Massachusetts have applied a novel approach to studying servicemembers, the Army's official website reports.

Scientists at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center are leading this trial. While previous research has been conducted on what toll the heavy gear is taking on the bodies of soldiers, those studies traditionally relied on asking subjects to simply walk in a straight line, which does not accurately mimic their activity in the field. To change this, Brown had participants – who were carrying anywhere from seven to 88 pounds – run, jump and cut like they would during battle. 

"This is just another data point that shows how much load is affecting our soldiers," said team leader Dr. Jeffrey Schiffman. "Now we're starting to get more into react-to-contact type moments."

Studying soldiers more like athletes could offer solutions that ensure heavy gear doesn't take a toll on their health, which is a significant issue. A 2008 report found musculoskeletal injuries are common in active duty soldiers.