Physical fitness and body composition after a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan

Marilyn A Sharp, Joseph J Knapik, Leila A Walker, Lolita Burrell, Peter N Frykman, Salima S Darakjy, Mark E Lester, Roberto E Marin
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2008, 40 (9): 1687-92

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 VO2), 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 VO2 (-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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