Linking BMI with Running, Swimming & Heaves

Research Paper Title

Relationship of body mass index with 1,600 m running, 50 m swimming, and pull-ups performance in army cadets.


While the importance of physical fitness for cadets is well-documented, no study has ever been conducted to investigate if there is an optimal body mass index (BMI) for physical fitness in army cadets.

Therefore, the aim of this cross-sectional study was to examine the association between BMI and physical fitness in cadets.


Male army cadets (n = 196, aged 18-19 years) were examined for weight and height, their BMI was calculated, and they performed three tests: 1,600 m running, 50 m swimming, and pull-ups (aka heaves).

Student’s t-test was used to examine differences between normal weight and overweight cadets, while a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) examined differences between BMI quartiles with regard to physical fitness.


BMI was directly related to running (r = 0.30, P < 0.001) and inversely related to pull-ups (r = −0.22, P = 0.002), while there was no significant correlation between BMI and swimming time (r = −0.05, P = 0.517).

The comparison between normal weight and overweight (n = 54, 27.6%) participants revealed differences with regard to running (t192= −2.86, P = 0.005) and pull-ups (t194 = 2.41, P = 0.017), but not in swimming (t193 = 0.52, P = 0.605).

One-way ANOVA revealed also differences between BMI quartiles with regard to running (F3,190 = 3.91, P = 0.010) and pull-ups (F3,192 = 5.73, P = 0.001), but not for swimming (F3,191 = 0.74, P = 0.528).


In summary, the correlation analysis revealed that the higher the BMI, the lower the performance in running and pull-ups. Normal weight performed better in these tests than overweight participants, but BMI did not influence performance in swimming.

The researchers findings confirmed previous observations about the negative effect of overweight on physical fitness. However, since the best performances in running and in pull-ups were achieved by different BMI quartiles, the researchers concluded that the optimal BMI depends on the physical fitness parameter that one is interested in.


Nikolaidis, P.T. & Zisimatos, D. (2014) Relationship of Body Mass Index with 1,600 m Running, 50 m Swimming, and Pull-ups Performance in Army Cadets. Saudi Journal of Sports Medicine. 14(2), pp.144-150. DOI: 10.4103/1319-6308.142372


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