For its 2021 cross-Canada voyage, the AKOR team was determined to contribute to the advancement of knowledge about northern ecosystems and the human body, using what distinguishes it from conventional research: its ability to travel long distances in an integral manner and at a pace that allows it to stop temporarily anywhere to take samples.
The second scientific mandate of the expedition is the result of the association between the AKOR expedition, the Physical Activity Sciences Laboratory of Laval University (LABSAP) and the University of Quebec at Rimouski (UQAR). The data collected and shared between the two universities will allow a better understanding of the adaptive mechanisms of the human body in situations of very long efforts in extreme conditions (cold, wind, etc.).
With climate change, the increasing number of environmental researchers and other workers visiting Arctic regions is driving research to try to better understand the risks and the tools that can be provided for their safety. The AKOR expedition helped to observe the impact of the northern environment on crew members, but also to validate a set of inexpensive tools to monitor their health status. Due to the very small number of participants in these research projects, it was very interesting to follow as much as possible of this expedition in order to understand what strategies should be used in the future. This project is a crucial opportunity to observe and validate telehealth tools that could help future workers, researchers and adventurers visiting Arctic environments and ensure the most optimal safety.
Through several measures of effort load monitoring and estimation of caloric expenditure of the expedition members, researchers are able to assess the demand that the adventurers put on their bodies during their expedition. Extensive follow-up is done in the months and years following the expedition to document the long-term effects on basal metabolic rate and how the body now spends the energy available to it.
A third project, in collaboration with the Centre of expertise for chronic pain management of the CIUSSS de l'Estrie, is investigating whether the daily accomplishment of the AKOR adventurers can motivate a group of patients living with chronic pain to regain narrative control of their lives by engaging in more physical activity and daily tasks that can be very physically and psychologically challenging.
Shortly before the start of the journey, Dr. Nathalie Clément saw the AKOR expedition as a unique opportunity to advance patients with severe chronic pain despite the pandemic. Nathalie Clément saw the AKOR expedition as a unique opportunity to make progress for patients with severe chronic pain, despite the pandemic. Highly motivated by the expedition, Dr. Clément set up a parallel group, called Versant AKOR, which would bring together users who needed additional support to the usual follow-up to commit to actions that would promote their health/wellness, including regular physical activity. The idea was to follow the expedition from a distance and to take up a challenge that was grandiose, but within the capabilities of our users.
The goal of the Versant AKOR group was to cover the 7,600 kilometers of the AKOR expedition simultaneously with the real expedition, by symbolic kilometers. This beautiful innovation was a great success: the patients completed their journey on October 25th and a meeting was held to give them a diploma and a T-shirt, underlining their participation. Several users have made important changes to their lifestyle by integrating physical activity several times a week into their routine and by developing their social network, since friendships have been created in the group. Finally, a research team from the University of Sherbrooke has taken an interest in the project and a research project is underway on the group!
To learn more about this innovative initiative, read this article published in La Tribune newspaper during the expedition: Faire partie d'une expédition malgré la douleur chronique.