Physical fitness level affects perception of chronic stress in military trainees
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.