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Epidemiological data suggest an association between overweight/obesity and asthma. However, less is known about the relationship between physical fitness and asthma.To enumerate new-onset asthma diagnoses in Army recruits during the first 2 years of service and determine associations with fitness and excess body fat (EBF) at military entrance.New asthma diagnoses over 2 years in Army recruits at six entrance stations were obtained from military health and personnel records. Poisson regression models were used to determine associations of asthma diagnosis with pre-accession fitness testing, EBF and other potential factors.In 9979 weight-qualified and 1117 EBF entrants with no prior history of asthma, 256 new cases of asthma were diagnosed within 2 years of military entry. Low level of fitness, defined by a step test and EBF, was significantly associated with new asthma diagnosis [adjusted incidence rate ratio (IRR), 1.47; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.11–1.96 and adjusted IRR, 1.53; 95% CI 1.06–2.20, respectively].Individuals with low fitness levels, EBF or both are at higher risk of asthma diagnosis in the first 2 years of military service.