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Physical Fitness and Body Composition after a 9-Month Deployment to Afghanistan

SHARP, MARILYN A.1; KNAPIK, JOSEPH J.2; WALKER, LEILA A.1; BURRELL, LOLITA3; FRYKMAN, PETER N.1; DARAKJY, SALIMA S.2; LESTER, MARK E.1; MARIN, ROBERTO E.4

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: September 2008 - Volume 40 - Issue 9 - pp 1687-1692
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318176b978
APPLIED SCIENCES: Physical Fitness and Performance

Purpose: To examine change in physical fitness and body composition after a military deployment to Afghanistan.

Methods: One hundred and ten infantry soldiers were measured before and after a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. Measurements included treadmill peak oxygen uptake (peak V˙O2), lifting strength, medicine ball put, vertical jump, and body composition estimated via dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (percent body fat, absolute body fat, fat-free mass, bone mineral content, and bone mineral density).

Results: There were significant decreases (P < 0.01) in peak V˙O2 (−4.5%), medicine ball put (−4.9%), body mass (−1.9%), and fat-free mass (−3.5%), whereas percent body fat increased from 17.7% to 19.6%. Lifting strength and vertical jump performance did not change predeployment to postdeployment.

Conclusions: Nine months deployment to Afghanistan negatively affected aerobic capacity, upper body power, and body composition. The predeployment to postdeployment changes were not large and unlikely to present a major health or fitness concern. If deployments continue to be extended and time between deployments decreased, the effects may be magnified and further study warranted.

1US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Military Performance Division, Natick, MA; 2US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD; 3United States Military Academy, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, West Point, NY; 4Oklahoma University Health Science Center, College of Public Health Occupational Medicine, Oklahoma City, OK

Address for correspondence: Marilyn A. Sharp, M.S., US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, ATTN: MRMC-UE-EMP, Natick, MA 01760-5007; E-mail: marilyn.sharp@us.army.mil.

Submitted for publication January 2008.

Accepted for publication March 2008.

©2008The American College of Sports Medicine