Is There Any Correlation between Physical Fitness Tests & Performance of Military Tasks?


Research Paper Title

Correlations between Physical Fitness Tests & Performance of Military Tasks – A Systematic Review & Meta-Analyses.

Purpose

To help evaluate the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and ensure a future test is associated with Soldiers’ performance of common physical job requirements, the USAPHC applied a Systematic Review (SR) methodology to identify and synthesize published correlations between military task performance and physical fitness tests.

Methods

A preliminary step to the SR was to identify key military-relevant tasks and physical fitness components of interest. Starting with the Army’s Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills (WTBDs), twelve task categories were identified, including some tasks performed by both military and civilian occupations (e.g., firefighters, police and athletes). Physical fitness tests were sorted into four physical fitness groups:

  1. Cardiorespiratory endurance (e.g., aerobic fitness);
  2. Muscle strength;
  3. Muscle endurance; and
  4. Flexibility.

Tests of muscular strength and muscular endurance were further subcategorised into:

  • Upper and Lower Body;
  • Core; or
  • Whole Body regions.

Physical tests included the APFT events (2-mile run, sit ups, push-ups) as well as other equipment and non-equipment physical fitness tests (e.g., jump tests, squats, sprints, pull-ups, grip tests, arm lifts, curls, and various extension machine tests).

To synthesize the data, a series of meta-analyses provided pooled correlation coefficients for the twelve tasks and eleven physical fitness test groups.

Results

Flexibility tests were the least frequently identified, while upper body strength tests were most frequently identified in studies that met the inclusion criteria.

  • Correlations with aerobic tests were fairly well studied, with a few notable gaps (e.g., the Loaded March task).
  • Pooled r coefficients for specific physical tests (e.g., run tests, push-ups, sit-ups, grip tests, and vertical and broad jump tests) were also calculated.
  • Of the physical fitness component groups evaluated, aerobic capacity is most strongly correlated across the greatest number of military tasks (highest r = 0.80, average r for all tasks = 0.53, average r for the top 5 tasks = 0.68, r value range = 0.30 – 0.80).
  • Of next importance, muscular strength and endurance both have strong correlations with lifting, lowering, stretcher carry and crawl (average for top 5 tasks= r >0.50).
  • Lower body strength and endurance tests (average top 5 task r = 0.63 and r = 0.58) are of similar strength to correlations for top correlations with upper body endurance (average top 5 task r = 0.57).
  • Core endurance, and sit-ups specifically, are weakly correlated with most tasks (average r for all tasks= 0.33; for top 5 tasks r = 0.38).

Conclusions

A test of aerobic capacity is fundamental for assessing Soldiers’ basic physical capacity to conduct critical tasks, while sit-ups do not appear to be an important test.

Muscle strength and endurance are also critical physical components.

Since the current APFT does not include a measure of muscle strength or power, consideration should be given to fill this gap in future testing requirements.

Reference

Hauschild, V., DeGroot, D., Hall, S., Deaver, K., Hauret, K., Grier, T. & Jones, B. (2014) Correlations between Physical Fitness Tests & Performance of Military Tasks – A Systematic Review & Meta-Analyses. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a607688.pdf. [Accessed: 05 May, 2016].

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