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United States university-based officer training and its influence on physical assessment test performance


Introduction Cadets participating in Reserve Officers’ Training Corp (ROTC) at US universities undergo both Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT) evaluations prior to commissioning. The current study examined the relationship between ROTC physical training (PT) attendance and performance in the APFT and OPAT, and characterised physical activity of cadets outside of PT.

Methods Twenty-six cadets’ (21 males; age=20.81±2.48 years; height=171.16±8.62 cm; body mass=75.49±13.17 kg; body mass index=25.68±3.37 kg/m2) PT attendance, and diagnostic (week 1) and record (week 13) OPAT and APFT scores were documented. Paired samples t-tests evaluated differences in APFT and OPAT scores between the diagnostic and record tests. Pearson correlations were utilised to determine if a relationship existed between PT attendance and test performance. Participating cadets also completed monthly self-reported physical activity questionnaire (September, October, November); findings were reported using descriptive statistics.

Results Cadets attended 87% of PT sessions between OPAT administrations and 85% between APFT administrations. Cadets significantly improved the following test components: standing long jump (p=0.034), seated power throw (p=0.029), shuttle run (p=0.005), sit-ups (p=0.003) and 2-mile run (p=0.045). A significant, positive correlation was found between PT attendance and APFT sit-ups improvements (r=0.473, p=0.015). Cadets’ frequently reported additional physical activity days per week (range: 2.8–3.1 aerobic, 3.2–3.8 strength/power, 2.9–3.2 core strength/endurance).

Conclusions Regular participation in a single semester of ROTC PT was found to significantly increase cadets’ scores in some, but not all, components of the APFT and OPAT. Self-reported physical activity results indicate that cadets regularly train outside of organised PT.

  • education & training (see medical education & training)
  • health & safety
  • musculoskeletal disorders

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Deidentified data are available upon reasonable request, via email, to the corresponding author.

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