Sport Sciences for Health

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 141–147 | Cite as

Association between physical fitness and psychological distress among Brazilian armed force personnel

  • Aldair J. Oliveira
  • Geraldo A. Maranhão Neto
  • Osmar D. Barros
  • Rodrigo Pedreiro
  • Eric Murillo-Rodriguez
  • Antônio Carlos Ponce de Leon
  • Sergio MachadoEmail author
Original Article


Previous research suggests that physical fitness moderates the adverse effects of stressful life events. However, the relation between fitness and psychological distress needs to be explored, especially in armed force personnel. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between physical fitness and psychological distress among Brazilian armed force personnel. In this cross-sectional study, we measured physical fitness and psychological distress of 1252 subjects, using, respectively, field tests and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). After adjusting for confounders, statistically significant direct associations (p < 0.05) between physical fitness and psychological distress were found. Low levels of muscle endurance (OR 1.65; 95% CI 1.2–2.3) and combined cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle endurance (OR 1.91; 95% CI 1.2–3.0) were associated with greater psychological distress in the overall sample. In the operational group, low levels of muscle endurance (OR 1.81; 95% CI 1.2–2.8), cardiorespiratory fitness (OR 2.09; 95% CI 1.2–3.6) and combined cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle endurance (OR 2.70; 95% CI 1.4–5.1) were also associated with greater psychological distress. On the other hand, no significant (p > 0.05) association was found for the non-operational group. Low levels of physical fitness were associated with greater psychological distress among armed force personnel, especially among those with operational status. These findings suggest that physical fitness is not only relevant for military functions but also for mental health.


Military personnel Mental health Cardiorespiratory fitness Common mental disorders 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

All participants provided written informed consent after being informed about the protocols and objectives of the present study. This was approved by the research ethics committee of the Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia S.r.l., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aldair J. Oliveira
    • 1
  • Geraldo A. Maranhão Neto
    • 2
  • Osmar D. Barros
    • 3
  • Rodrigo Pedreiro
    • 2
  • Eric Murillo-Rodriguez
    • 4
    • 6
  • Antônio Carlos Ponce de Leon
    • 3
  • Sergio Machado
    • 5
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Laboratory of Social Dimensions Applied to Physical Activity and SportRural Federal University of Rio de JaneiroSeropédicaBrazil
  2. 2.Physical Activity Sciences Graduate ProgramSalgado de Oliveira University (UNIVERSO)NiteróiBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Epidemiology, Institute of Social MedicineRio de Janeiro State UniversityRio de JaneiroBrazil
  4. 4.Laboratorio de Neurociencias Moleculares e Integrativas, Escuela de Medicina, División Ciencias de la SaludUniversidad Anáhuac MayabMéridaMexico
  5. 5.Physical Activity Neuroscience Laboratory (LABNAF), Physical Activity Sciences Postgraduate ProgramSalgado de Oliveira University (UNIVERSO)NiteróiBrazil
  6. 6.Intercontinental Neuroscience Research GroupMéridaMexico

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