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.