Cigarette smoking adversely effects long-term health and is associated with reduced cardiorespiratory fitness. Smoking has also been reported to impair physical performance adaptations and increase injury risk during military training. Despite this, smoking prevalence in military populations has typically been observed to be higher than in the general population. This study aimed to examine smoking characteristics of British Army infantry trainees and the potential effect of habitual smoking on physical fitness parameters. A validated lifestyle questionnaire was administered to trainees (aged 18-33) at entry to training (n=2087) to determine smoking characteristics. In a sub-sample (n=1182), measures of physical fitness routinely conducted in weeks 1, 14 and 24 of training were also obtained. A linear mixed model was used to identify any differences over time between habitual smokers (S) and non-smokers (NS) in 2.4 km run time, and the number of press-ups and sit-ups performed in two minutes. At entry to training the population comprised habitual smokers (48%), occasional smokers (5%), former smokers (9%) and non-smokers (37%) (1% non-responders). The sub-sample used in physical performance analysis was comprised solely of habitual smokers (58%) and non-smokers (42%). Estimated marginal means for weeks 1, 14 and 24 of training showed that NS performed significantly better than S in press ups (NS: 48 (0.6), 55 (0.6), 57 (0.7); S: 44 (0.5), 52 (0.5), 55 (0.6); P<0.001), sit ups (NS: 57 (0.5), 62 (0.6), 66 (0.6); S: 54 (0.4), 61 (0.5), 63 (0.5); P<0.001) and 2.4 km run time (NS: 612 (2), 579 (2), 567 (2) s; S: 621 (2), 586 (2), 571 (2) s; P<0.01). Physical performance improved significantly as a result of training irrespective of smoking group (P<0.001) but no interaction effects were evident (P>0.05). Smoking prevalence in British infantry trainees is substantially higher than both the British general public and values typically reported in similar non-infantry military populations. Twenty-four weeks of military training resulted in similar significant improvements in physical fitness parameters irrespective of smoking status. However, habitual smokers were significantly less physically fit than non-smokers, both at entry and throughout infantry training. Ultimately, poorer physical fitness might hinder performance in future occupational tasks.
|Publication status||Published - 2012|