What is the Effect of Continuous Military Operations on Physical Fitness?

Research Paper Title

Effects of Continuous Military Operations on Physical Fitness Capacity and Physical Performance.


The purposes of this study were to determine the effects of a continuous field artillery scenario on physical fitness capacity and performance and to estimate the physical intensity of the scenario by continuous heart rate monitoring.


Twenty-four artillerymen comprising three, 8-man gun crews participated in an 8-day, combat-simulated operation. Body composition and measures of fitness (isokinetic strength of the arms and legs, isometric handgrip strength, dynamic lifting, and upper body anaerobic power) were determined before and immediately following the scenario. Physical performance was assessed by daily ratings from senior non-commissioned officers (NCO) experienced in artillery operations. The intensity of physical activity and amount of sleep were estimated from continuously recorded heart rate using electrocardiographic tape recorders worn by the soldiers.


No changes occurred in body weight or upper body anaerobic power from pre- to post-scenario. However, measures of muscular strength and lifting capacity increased by 12%–18% post-scenario. Physical performance scores were significantly higher on Days 1 and 8 compared to the other days but no differences were seen from days 2 through 7. The mean ±SD for daily sleep was 5.3 ± 1.3 hours. The soldiers averaged 22 min and 2.9 min per day, respectively, at heart rates equal to or greater than 50% and 75% of their maximal heart rates.


The results suggest that soldiers who are allowed 5 hours sleep per day and who are required to perform at relatively moderate levels of physical intensity show no decrements in physical fitness capacity or evidence of physical fatigue for up to 8 days of continuous operations.


Patton, J.F., Vogel, J.A., Damokosh, A.I. & Mello, R.P. (1989) Effects of Continuous Military Operations on Physical Fitness Capacity and Physical Performance. Work & Stress: An International Journal of Work, Health & Organisations. 3(1), pp.69-77.


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