Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fitness and the battlefield

You read a lot about military fitness. Crossfit aligns itself with the US military and often highlights soldiers that train using its approach.

A few months ago I linked to a series of booklets which described a British Army Fitness Programme - incidentally some of the most popular posts on this blog!

Pavel has also made a lot of his military career and the lessons that he learned in the Russian army.

And that is all fine. Soldiers have to be fit and functionally fit. Strong, flexible, resilient.

In that light it was interesting to see this study which indicates that when they are actually in theatre, on the battlefield, their fitness suffers. They get less fit, somewhat less explosive and a bit fatter. Now there are probably explanations for this - poor diet, fewer opportunities to train, more stress, less sleep - but it is an interesting issue to consider and perhaps an indication that there is a need to think about training to maintain fitness while on deployment.

Physical Fitness and Body Composition after a 9-Month Deployment to Afghanistan.

Purpose: To examine change in physical fitness and body composition after a military deployment to Afghanistan.

Methods: One hundred and ten infantry soldiers were measured before and after a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. Measurements included treadmill peak oxygen uptake (peak V[spacing dot above]O2), lifting strength, medicine ball put, vertical jump, and body composition estimated via dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (percent body fat, absolute body fat, fat-free mass, bone mineral content, and bone mineral density).

Results: There were significant decreases (P < 0.01) in peak V[spacing dot above]O2 (-4.5%), medicine ball put (-4.9%), body mass (-1.9%), and fat-free mass (-3.5%), whereas percent body fat increased from 17.7% to 19.6%. Lifting strength and vertical jump performance did not change predeployment to postdeployment.

Conclusions: Nine months deployment to Afghanistan negatively affected aerobic capacity, upper body power, and body composition. The predeployment to postdeployment changes were not large and unlikely to present a major health or fitness concern. If deployments continue to be extended and time between deployments decreased, the effects may be magnified and further study warranted.

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