Megan B. Thompson1, Robert G. Lockie2, Jay J. Dawes1

1Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma; 2California State University, Fullerton, Fullerton, California

The US military commonly uses body composition as an indicator of a soldier’s potential to meet the physical demands required of their occupation. Due to the diverse requirements between various military occupational specialties, what constitutes “ideal” body composition within these populations is a much-debated topic. Previous research has shown greater body fat percentage (BF%) and body mass index (BMI) was associated with lower fitness scores on the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). However, these relationships have not yet been explored on the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), which has a greater focus on power and strength, rather than only endurance-based events. PURPOSE: To determine if significant relationships existed between BMI, BF%, and ACFT performance among a cohort of university Army ROTC cadets. METHODS: 39 male (20.2 ± 1.5 years, 80.6 ± 8.7 kg, 25.5 ± 2.5 BMI, 17.5 ± 4.6 BF%, 177.7 ± 7.6 cm) and 15 female (20.2 ± 1.6 years, 65.5 ± 7.1 kg, 24.8 ± 2.6 BMI, 31.5 ± 5.3 BF%, 162.6 ± 5.1 cm) cadets voluntarily participated in this study. BF% and BMI were measured using bioelectrical impedance analysis, and ACFT scores were recorded by the cadre using US Army standard protocol and provided to the investigators for analysis. Pearson’s correlations were used to identify relationships between BF%, BMI, and ACFT event raw and point scores with an alpha level of .05. RESULTS: Moderate to strong relationships were observed between BF% and raw scores for all events (r = .43-.74, p ≤ .001). Moderate relationships between BF% with all scaled scores for the ACFT (r = .43-.59, p ≤ .001) were also discovered. BMI did not significantly correlate with any of the individual ACFT events or final point values. CONCLUSION: Overall, BF% was negatively related to all events that counted repetitions, and positively related to events that were timed, which indicated that a lower BF% was more desirable for ACFT performance. Additionally, the females in this study had a higher than acceptable average BF% for the Army (>28%), which would require referral to a weight-management program or potential separation from service. ROTC programs should emphasize attaining and maintaining functional lean mass, while reducing non-functional body mass (i.e., excess body fat) among cadets to enhance health and performance across the occupational life span.

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