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Dan Heil, PhD, FACSM

Dan Heil


Health and Human Performance

210 Romney
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717-3360


  • Advisor for graduate students interested in applied field of Exercise Physiology.
  • Seasonal testing of the Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF) junior (15+ years and older) and sub-elite cross country skiers, as well as the Montana State University Nordic Ski Team members. Skiers are tested 2-3 times each year corresponding to the end of the race season (April), end of Summer (August), and pre-snow training (early November) as time allows. Testing usually includes 10-30 athletes and usually includes a skate roller skiing treadmill test to measure VO2max, lactate or ventilatory threshold, as well as tests of upper body power using validated tests from our lab.
  • Contracted Lab Testing: Our lab also performs fitness testing for groups upon request and availability of the lab. For example, we performed fitness testing for the Bozeman city firefighters for several years that included VO2max testing with 12-lead ECG, 30-sec Wingate testing, as well as various tests of upper and lower body muscular strength. Additional testing can include body fat testing via underwater weighing, testing of hydration status (urine concentration via osmolality or color), various blood parameters, as well as custom-designed tests of physical performance that complement the needs of the population being tested. We have also done some product testing at the request of various companies.

Areas of Interest

  • Algorithms for indirectly assessing domains of free-living energy expenditure (i.e. activity intensity, frequency, duration, as well as minute-by-minute rate of energy expenditure) using electronic physical activity monitors. We are currently working with several groups around the U.S. to analyze the activity monitor data resulting from NIH funded physical activity interventions. To see an example of the types of monitors used by our lab, take a look at the Actical activity monitors and VitalSense monitors developed by the Mini Mitter Co.:
  • Use of electronic monitoring devices in free-living settings to assess determinants of work performance and energy expenditure. While we have previously used this methodology to assess energy expenditure in Hot Shot wildland firefighters, we are expanding our tests to U.S. Special Operations personnel who are on assignment to Southwestern Montana for training.
  • Training practices of competitive Masters-level cross-country skiers. This is a large project aimed at tracking both training heart rate and daily training practices (using an elaborate training log) to evaluate how competitive cross-country skiers in the western U.S. typically train in the Fall and Winter seasons. This project, as well as several other projects in our lab, are dependent upon the generous support of The Rate Watch Company:
  • Physiological and biomechanical determinants of elite endurance performance (e.g. bicycling, running, cross-country skiing).
  • Body mass scaling (i.e., allometric scaling) of physiological parameters and human performance.  This area of research asks the question, How do individual differences in body size determine or explain individual differences in resting physiology (e.g., BMR), anthropometrics (e.g., limb lengths relative to body height and mass, body density), the energetics of locomotion (e.g., economy), maximal physiological parameters (e.g., VO2max), and even physical performance (e.g., 1-mile run time, 40 km cycling time-trial).

Recently Completed Research Projects

  • NIH Funded Physical Activity Interventions. Dr Heil is involved as a collaborator in several studies recently awarded NIH funding to implement physical activity interventions in high risk groups. One study will evaluate the efficacy of using local church involvement as a mechanism for adherence to physical activity programs. The other study will evaluate the ability of a physical activity intervention to prevent overweight people from crossing the line into the obese category. One group with whom I have had the privilege to work is the Gramercy Research Group:
  • Load Carriage by Military Personnel. This describes a series of grant-funded and graduate thesis studies since 2010 that have involved physiological and biomechanical measures to compare military-issue backpacks, the use of a backpack-styled waist belt when wearing upper body armor, the influence of backpack straps and upper body armor on the functionality of the hands (i.e., looking at effects of nerve and artery compression through the brachial plexus), as well as the influence of proper upper body armor fit on dynamic physical performance. These studies have mostly been collaboratively supported by Bozeman’ s own Mystery Ranch (, as well as the Montana Overland Research Foundation (MORF:
  • Influence of a Nutrition Supplement on Upper Body Power (UBP) in Nordic Skiers. Funded by a Seattle-based company, we found that chronic loading of the supplement Alkaplex-based supplement ( increased UBP in several anaerobic power tests while decreasing submaximal HR, oxygen consumption, and lactate responses.
  • Hydration status as a function of consuming highly mineralized alkaline bottled water. We one study that documented how the consumption of Akali bottled water (Glacia Nova LLC: ) could rehydrate cyclists better than regular water after a dehydrating bout of exercises. Chronic consumption of the same water over a two week period was also shown to improve people’ s hydration status when compared to the consumption of regular water.
  • Optimal Body Position and Bicycle Design. This study focused on how to evaluate whether hip angle and pelvic tilt changed, if at all, with different combinations of bicycle geometry (i.e., seat-tube and trunk angle) and saddle design. These data were presented at and supported by the Serotta International Cycling Institute, or SICI.
  • 2004 Hawaiian Ironman Research Project. Dr. Heil and several graduate students traveled to Kona, HI, in the Fall of 2004 to characterize the preferred bicycling positioning of the Ironman triathletes.
  • Validation of the Actical Activity Monitor to Predict Energy Expenditure. This 2003-2004 project funded Dr. Heil and several graduate students to derive a series of prediction equations that could be applied to raw activity monitor data for transformation into units of METs or activity energy expenditure (AEE). Separate equations were derived for monitors placed on the wrist, hip, or ankle in both adults and children.
  • Pedometer Longevity Project.  This 2003-2004 project funded Dr. Heil and several graduate and undergraduate students evaluate how quickly different brands of pedometers would last during normal field use and remain accurate. Most all of these studies were generously supported by The New Lifestyles Company:
  • Influence of Race (Native American vs. Caucasian), gender, and physical activity on the prevalence of eating disorders symptoms. Dr. Heil assisted Dr. Wes Lynch (Dept. of Psychology, MSU) in this NIMH funded project that involved extensive questionnaire evaluations and photographic analyses of middle and high school kids in Billings and Hardin school districts (both are in eastern Montana).