Physical fitness during medical school: A 4-year study at the Uniformed services university

Mark B. Stephens, Christopher Cochran, Jennifer M. Hall, Cara Olsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background and objectives: Medical school is stressful. Students commonly exhibit changes in dietary and physical activity patterns in response. We tracked measurements of physical fitness over 4 years in a cohort of students at the Uniformed Services University. METHODS: Validated measures for specific components of physical fitness were measured in 170 students (94% of the Class of 2011) over the course of 4 years. Measurements included: (1) height and weight (body composition), (2) timed push-ups and sit-ups (muscular endurance), and (3) timed run (aerobic endurance). These measurements are part of annual physical readiness testing required for active duty service in the US military. RESULTS: Muscular endurance and aerobic capacity declined significantly over the 4 years of medical school. Changes in physical fitness were most pronounced during the preclinical years. There were inconsistent changes in body composition among students in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Composite fitness scores declined significantly in Army and Navy students but not in the Air Force. CONCLUSIONS: Individual levels of physical fitness decline during medical school. Declines are most notable during the preclinical years. To promote student wellness, medical schools should incorporate student wellness activities as a routine part of the curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)694-697
Number of pages4
JournalFamily Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


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