This study assessed the effects of eight weeks of military training on aerobic fitness indices, military skills and neuropsychological function. Thirty five (n=35) male Irish Defence Forces personnel, divided into training (n=20) and control (n=15) subgroups, completed tests of military aptitude (Kim’s games, judging distance, fire order, map reading, weapon assembly) and neuropsychological function (Symbol digit modalities test (SDMT), Trail making test, Stroop test and grooved pegboard test) pre- and post-intervention. The repeated measures study design sought to account for any learning effect. Participants also completed a 10km route march, a two mile run and three by 20m shuttle run tests at both time points to quantify changes in fitness variables. The training sub-group significantly (P<0.001) improved mean 20m shuttle-run distance and consequently estimated VO2 max pre- to post-intervention (49.8±1.0 vs. 52.4±0.9 mL.kg-1.min-1). Two mile run time was not significantly improved. Mean %HRmax during the 10km route march was significantly higher in both training (P<0.001) and control (P<0.01) sub-groups post-intervention (71±1 and 83±1%) compared to pre-intervention (65±1 and 77±1%). However, the training sub-group conducted the route march at a significantly faster speed on the second occasion. Military training significantly improved performance in 3/18 neuropsychological test components and 2/12 military skills test components. Training significantly improved ability to estimate both short (error; 36±6 vs. 12±1%) and intermediate (error; 72±12 vs. 11±3%) distances post-intervention. The training sub-group significantly (P<0.01) improved SDMT score and mean Trail 1 time pre- to post-intervention (58.0±2.8 vs. 69.5±3.4; 18.1±0.8 vs. 14.4±0.8s, respectively). In Part 3 of the Stroop test, time mediated a significant (P<0.05) and selective improvement in the training sub-group (51.3±3.2 vs. 63.8±5.4). In conclusion, aerobic fitness and a minority of neuropsychological and military skills tests improved following 8 weeks of military training.
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