PURPOSE: To determine whether physical performance adaptation is impaired in smokers during early stages of military training, and to examine some of the putative mechanistic candidates that could explain any impairment.

METHODS: We examined measures of oxidative stress (malondialdehyde (MDA), lipid hydroperoxides), inflammation (C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6), antioxidants (Vitamins A, E and carotenes) and hormones (cortisol, testosterone, insulin-like growth factor-1) in 65 male British Army Infantry recruits (mean ± SD age: 21 ± 3 yr; mass: 75.5 ± 8.4 kg; height: 1.78 ± 0.07 m) at week 1, week 5 and week 10 of basic training. Physical performance (static lift, grip strength, jump height, 2.4 km run time and two-minute press up and sit up scores) was examined and lower-leg muscle and adipose cross-sectional area (CSA) and density measured by peripheral Quantitative Computed Tomography.

RESULTS: Basic Military training, irrespective of smoking status, elicited improvement in all physical performance parameters (main time effect; P < 0.05) except grip strength and jump height, and resulted in increased muscle area and decreased fat area in the lower leg (P < 0.05). MDA was higher in smokers at baseline, and both MDA and CRP were greater in smokers during training (main group effect; P < 0.05), than non-smokers. Absolute performance measures, muscle characteristics of the lower leg and other oxidative stress, antioxidant, endocrine and inflammatory markers were similar in the two groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Oxidative stress and inflammation were elevated in habitual smokers during basic military training, but there was no clear evidence that this was detrimental to physical adaptation in this population over the timescale studied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1201-1209
JournalMedicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
Issue number5
Early online date27 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2020


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