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Physical fitness and anthropometrics in Finnish soldiers during their early career: prospective changes during a 3-year follow-up
  1. Jani P Vaara1,
  2. K Pihlainen2,
  3. J Rusila1,
  4. T Ojanen3 and
  5. H Kyröläinen4
  1. 1Department of Leadership and Military Pedagogy, National Defence University, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2Training Division, Defence Command, Finland, Defence Forces Finland, Helsinki, Finland
  3. 3Finnish Defence Research Agency, Finnish Defence Forces, Järvenpää, Finland
  4. 4Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jani P Vaara, National Defence University Department of Leadership and Military Pedagogy, Helsinki 00861, Finland; jani.vaara{at}


Introduction Physical fitness is a fundamental capability required of military personnel, but studies focusing on longitudinal changes in physical fitness and anthropometrics in soldiers are lacking. The aim was to evaluate physical fitness and anthropometrics in soldiers during their early career.

Methods A 3-year prospective study included 180 male soldiers (baseline age 26±2 years) with measures of a 12 min running test, standing long jump, sit-up and push-up tests, and body mass, height and waist circumference (WC). Baseline data were stratified into tertiles, and the changes within each tertile were analysed using dependent t-tests and analysis of variance.

Results 12 min running test distance decreased on average by 2% (−54 m), sit-up performance 3% (−1.5 repetitions (reps)/min), push-up performance 4% (−1.9 reps/min) and standing long jump performance 1% (−2.1 cm) over the 3-year period (p<0.05). Both aerobic and muscular fitness decreased consistently among the highest baseline tertile (12 min running test: −70 m, sit-ups: −3.2 reps/min, push-ups: −7.5 reps/min, standing long jump: −5.5 cm; p<0.001), whereas both aerobic and muscular fitness levels were maintained and push-up performance was improved (p<0.05) in the lowest baseline tertiles. Body mass increased on average by 4% (+3.4 kg) and WC by 4% (+3.9 cm) (p<0.001), and these increases were observed for all baseline tertiles (p<0.05).

Conclusions Small decrements in physical fitness and anthropometrics exist during the early career of soldiers. The changes in physical fitness differed according to baseline fitness levels. The results indicate that support for exercise training may be needed even in a soldier’s early career.

  • sports medicine
  • epidemiology
  • nutrition & dietetics

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  • Presented at The present study was approved by the Research and Development Section of Finnish Defence Forces.

  • Contributors JV, HK and JR designed the study. JV wrote the first draft of this paper. JV, HK, JR, KP and TO revised the first draft and successive drafts. All authors read and approved the final manuscript, participated substantially in the study and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the Finnish Defence Forces. Data for this present register-based study were provided to the research group in an anonymised form from the administrative personnel data records after receiving a permission from the Personnel Division of the Defence Command and ethical approval from the National Defence University (HM751).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available. The data are owned by the Finnish Defence Forces and are therefore not open outside.