Asthma More Common in Less-Fit Army Recruits

SILVER SPRING, MD — Army recruits with low fitness levels, extra body fat or both are at higher risk of asthma diagnosis in the first two years of military service, according to a recent study.

An article in the journal Occupational Medicine noted that epidemiological data suggests an association between overweight/obesity and asthma. A team from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research pointed out, however, that less is known about the relationship between physical fitness and asthma.1

To remedy that, the researchers sought to enumerate new-onset asthma diagnoses in Army recruits during the first two years of service and determine associations with fitness and excess body fat (EBF) when they enlisted. Military health and personnel records were used to obtain information on new asthma diagnoses over two years in Army recruits at six entrance stations.

Results indicate that, in 9,979 weight-qualified and 1,117 EBF entrants with no prior history of asthma, 256 new cases of asthma were diagnosed within two years of military entry. Low level of fitness, defined by a step test and EBF, were significantly associated with new asthma diagnosis-adjusted incidence rate ratio (IRR) of 1.47 and adjusted IRR, respectively.

  1. Urban N, Boivin MR, Cowan DN. Fitness, obesity and risk of asthma among Army trainees. Occup Med (Lond). 2016 Oct;66(7):551-7. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqw081. PubMed PMID: 27387918.


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