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Impact of 12 weeks of basic military training on testosterone and cortisol responses
  1. Jamie L Tait1,
  2. S M Bulmer2,
  3. J M Drake2,
  4. J R Drain3 and
  5. L C Main1
  1. 1Deakin University, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), Burwood, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Deakin University, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Burwood, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3Defence Science and Technology Group, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr L C Main; luana.main{at}


Introduction Military personnel train and operate in challenging multistressor environments, which can affect hormonal levels, and subsequently compromise performance and recovery. The aims of this project were to evaluate concentrations of cortisol and testosterone and subjective perceptions of stress and recovery across basic military training (BMT).

Methods 32 male recruits undergoing BMT were tracked over a 12-week course. Saliva samples were collected weekly, on waking, 30 min postwaking and bedtime. Perceptions of stress and recovery were collected weekly. Daily physical activity (steps) were measured via wrist-mounted accelerometers across BMT. Physical fitness was assessed via the multistage fitness test and push-ups in weeks 2 and 8.

Results Concentrations of testosterone and cortisol, and the testosterone:cortisol ratio changed significantly across BMT, with variations in responses concurrent with programmatic demands. Perceptions of stress and recovery also fluctuated according to training elements. Recruits averaged 17 027 steps per day between weeks 2 and 12, with week-to-week variations. On average, recruits significantly increased predicted VO2max (3.6 (95% CI 1.0 to 6.1) mL/kg/min) and push-ups (5. 5 (95% CI 1.4 to 9.7) repetitions) between weeks 2 and 8.

Conclusions Recruit stress responses oscillated over BMT in line with programmatic demands indicating that BMT was, at a group level, well-tolerated with no signs of enduring physiological strain or overtraining. The sensitivity of cortisol, testosterone and the testosterone:cortisol ratio to the stressors of military training, suggest they may have a role in monitoring physiological strain in military personnel. Subjective measures may also have utility within a monitoring framework to help ensure adaptive, rather than maladaptive (eg, injury, attrition), outcomes in military recruits.

  • occupational & industrial medicine
  • health & safety
  • sports medicine

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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  • Contributors Study concept and design: LCM, JRD; acquisition of data: SMB, LCM, JT, JRD; analysis and interpretation of data: JT, JMD; drafting of the manuscript: JT; critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: all authors. Each of the authors have read and approved the final manuscript. LCM is responsible for the overall content as guarantor. The guarantor accepts full responsibility for the finished work and/or the conduct of the study, had access to the data, and controlled the decision to publish.

  • Funding The results reported herein correspond to specific aims of a grant from the Commonwealth of Australia represented by The Defence and Science Technology Group of the Department of Defence.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.