Effect of a 13-month deployment to Iraq on physical fitness and body composition

Mark E Lester, Joseph J Knapik, Daniel Catrambone, Amanda Antczak, Marilyn A Sharp, Lolita Burrell, Salima Darakjy
Military Medicine 2010, 175 (6): 417-23
This investigation evaluated the effects of a 13-month deployment to Iraq on body composition and selected fitness measures. Seventy-three combat arms soldiers were measured pre- and postdeployment. Body composition was assessed by dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Strength was measured by single repetition maximum (1-RM) lifts on bench press and squat. Power was assessed by a bench throw and squat jump. Aerobic endurance was evaluated with a timed 2-mile run. Exercise and injury history were assessed by questionnaire. Upper and lower body strength improved by 7% and 8%, respectively (p < 0.001). Upper body power increased 9% (p < 0.001) and lean mass increased 3% (p < 0.05). In contrast, aerobic performance declined 13% (p < 0.001) and fat mass increased 9% (p < 0.05). Fewer soldiers participated in aerobic exercise or sports during deployment (p < 0.001). Unit commanders should be aware of potential fitness and body composition changes during deployment and develop physical training programs to enhance fitness following deployment.

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