Physical fitness level affects perception of chronic stress in military trainees

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This study investigated whether physical fitness affects the perception of chronic stress in military trainees while controlling for established factors influencing stress perception. The sample consisted of 273 men (20.23 ± 1.12 years, 73.56 ± 10.52 kg, 1.78 ± 0.06 m). Physical fitness was measured by progressive endurance run (maximum oxygen uptake; VO2max), standing long jump, seated shot put, trunk muscle strength, and one leg standing test. Perceived stress was measured using the Perceived Stress Questionnaire in Weeks 1 and 11 of basic military training (BMT). VO2max and four influencing variables (perceived stress in Week 1, neuroticism, transformational leadership style, and education level) explained 44.44% of the variance of the increase in perceived stress during 10 weeks of BMT (R2 = 0.444, F = 23.334, p < .001). The explained variance of VO2 max was 4.14% (R2 = 0.041), with a Cohen's f2 effect size of 0.045 (assigned as a small effect by Cohen, 1988). The results indicate a moderating influence of good aerobic fitness on the varied level of perceived stress. We conclude that it is advisable to provide conscripts with a specific endurance training program prior to BMT for stress prevention reasons.

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