Physical Fitness in Young Men between 1975 and 2015 with a Focus on the Years 2005–2015

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of the present study was to investigate changes in physical fitness and anthropometry of young men entering the military service in Finland during the years 1975–2015.

Methods

The study included the fitness test results of 627,142 healthy young male conscripts (age 19.1 ± 0.4 yr). Data included results of aerobic capacity, muscle fitness tests, and anthropometric characteristics.

Results

The results show that the increase in mean body mass of young men has slowed down during the last 10 yr. However, the total increase in body mass was 6.8 kg (8.8%, P ≤ 0.001) between 1993 and 2015. The mean distance achieved in the 12-min running test decreased by 337 m (12.2%, P ≤ 0.001) between the peak in 1980 and 2015. The relative number of conscripts who ran less than 2200 m increased from 3.6% to 25.9% (P ≤ 0.001) between 1980 and 2015, and the proportion who ran more than 3000 m decreased from 25.1% to 6.5% (P ≤ 0.001). The relative number of conscripts who achieved an excellent or good muscle fitness index decreased from 66.8% to 40.1% (P ≤ 0.001) between 1992 and 2000, and remained unchanged between 2000 and 2010. However, the proportion who achieved a poor muscle fitness index increased from 8.1% to 31.4% (P ≤ 0.001) between 1992 and 2010.

Discussion

The present study shows that the increase in mean body mass of young male conscripts has slowed down during the last 10 yr. However, their aerobic capacity has still decreased during recent decades. In addition, the proportion of conscripts with poor muscle fitness has increased. From the national defense and health perspective, more initiatives are needed to encourage young men to increase their level of daily physical activity to be fit and ready for operations.

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