Date of Award

1-1-2013

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Exercise Science

First Advisor

Shawn D Youngstedt

Abstract

Despite the current need for investigation of factors involved with soldiers' resilience to stressors in the Basic Combat Training (BCT) environment, and evidence in civilian populations that physical training is associated with psychological benefits, little is known about the relationship between physical fitness and psychological adjustment during BCT. Study one of this dissertation involved an extensive literature review of factors related to the relationship between physical fitness and psychological adjustment of soldiers during BCT. Using qualitative focus group methods, study two assessed soldiers' perceptions about their sleep, and consequences of sleep disruption during BCT at Fort Jackson in Columbia, SC. Soldiers (age "<&ge > &ge>" 18 years) were assessed in 45-60 min sessions involving three groups of female soldiers (total n=28) and three groups of male soldiers (total n=38). Soldiers reported reductions in their sleep duration and quality, which were attributed to many factors. These sleep changes had many perceived negative effects on performance, mood, and other components of BCT, and were more evident in low-fit soldiers.

Study three prospectively examined the association between physical fitness and depressive symptoms in 300 soldiers during BCT at Fort Jackson. Soldiers completed a baseline Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and survey assessment within one week of arriving at BCT, and an end of cycle survey after eight weeks of BCT. Physical fitness level was determined using the Army standard APFT passing score of greater than or equal to 180 points out of 300 points to assign soldiers to the "high" fitness category, and less than 180 points to assign soldiers to the "low" fitness category. Depressive symptoms were measured using the 20-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). After adjusting for baseline demographics, BCT confidence score, Army identification score, self-reported sleep prior to BCT, and CES-D score in multivariate analyses, the odds of reporting depressive symptoms were 60% lower for soldiers in the high fitness category (odds ratio, OR 0.40; 95% confidence interval, CI 0.19-0.84), compared to soldiers in the low fitness category. Findings from these studies show evidence of relationships among physical fitness and factors related to the psychological health of soldiers during BCT.

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