Should We Promote Leisure-time Physical Activity in Soldiers during Deployments to Maintain Combat Readiness?

Research Paper Title

Effects of 6-Month Military Deployment on Physical Fitness, Body Composition, and Selected Health-Related Biomarkers.

Background

The purpose was to study the effects of 6-month deployment to Afghanistan on physical performance, anthropometrical, and health-related biochemical parameters in soldiers with sedentary to light physical workload shifts.

Methods

Twenty-five male soldiers (30 ± 4 years) volunteered and were measured before and after the 6-month deployment. Another 25 home-land-based male soldiers (30 ± 6 years) served as controls.

Total body fat percentage decreased in deployed soldiers (Pre: 23.2 ± 5.3 vs. Post: 20.8 ± 5.5%, p < 0.05), whereas no change was observed in control (20.2 ± 6.9 vs. 20.5 ± 7.0%). Physical performance improved in deployed soldiers in 4 × 10-m shuttle run (10.86 ± 0.90 vs. 10.49 ± 0.63 seconds) and pull-up test to failure (4.7 ± 3.7 vs. 7.5 ± 6.7 rep.) (p < 0.05) but not in the controls for the respective tests (10.28 ± 0.74 vs. 10.40 ± 0.76 seconds and 10.2 ± 7.8 vs. 10.2 ± 7.5 rep.).

Results

Deployed soldiers also improved 5-km run with a simulated combat gear time (29.2 ± 3.1 vs. 27.4 ± 3.0 minutes), whereas in control the time increased (26.4 ± 2.9 vs. 27.8 ± 2.6 minutes, p < 0.05). Load at maximum power output in bench press was improved in deployed soldiers (51.6 ± 11.3 vs. 56.2 ± 12.6 kg, p < 0.05). Serum glucose and creatinine decreased (5.46 ± 0.53 vs. 4.87 ± 0.74 mmol·L and 87.4 ± 10.7 vs. 80.9 ± 10.2 μmmol·L, respectively), and hemoglobin and hematocrite increased (15.13 ± 0.82 vs. 16.75 ± 0.85 g·dl and 45.3 ± 1.5 vs. 48.1 ± 2.4%, respectively, p < 0.05) in the deployment group.

Conclusions

In conclusion, after 6-month deployment consisting of sedentary and low physical occupational load, soldiers were able to increase their physical fitness and decrease their body fat content and improve selected health-related biochemical parameters.

Therefore, the adoption and promotion of leisure-time physical activity in soldiers during deployments is essential to maintain combat readiness.

Reference

Sedliak, M., Sedliak, P. & Vaara, J.P. (2019) Effects of 6-Month Military Deployment on Physical Fitness, Body Composition, and Selected Health-Related Biomarkers. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002885. [Epub ahead of print].

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