Fitness tests and occupational tasks of military interest: a systematic review of correlations

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Abstract

Physically demanding occupations (ie, military, firefighter, law enforcement) often use fitness tests for job selection or retention. Despite numerous individual studies, the relationship of these tests to job performance is not always clear.

This review examined the relationship by aggregating previously reported correlations between different fitness tests and common occupational tasks.

Search criteria were applied to PUBMED, EBSCO, EMBASE and military sources; scoring yielded 27 original studies providing 533 Pearson correlation coefficients (r) between fitness tests and 12 common physical job task categories. Fitness tests were grouped into predominant health-related fitness components and body regions: cardiorespiratory endurance (CRe); upper body, lower body and trunk muscular strength and muscular endurance (UBs, LBs, TRs, UBe, LBe, TRe) and flexibility (FLX). Meta-analyses provided pooled r's between each fitness component and task category.

The CRe tests had the strongest pooled correlations with most tasks (eight pooled r values 0.80–0.52). Next were LBs (six pooled r values >0.50) and UBe (four pooled r values >0.50). UBs and LBe correlated strongly to three tasks. TRs, TRe and FLX did not strongly correlate to tasks.

Employers can maximise the relevancy of assessing workforce health by using fitness tests with strong correlations between fitness components and job performance, especially those that are also indicators for injury risk. Potentially useful field-expedient tests include timed-runs (CRe), jump tests (LBs) and push-ups (UBe). Impacts of gender and physiological characteristics (eg, lean body mass) should be considered in future study and when implementing tests.

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