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COMPARATIVE STUDY OF THE PHYSICAL FITNESS OF NIGERIAN ARMED FORCES PERSONNEL
The study was on the physical fitness of Nigerian Armed Forces personnel. The motivation for the research was kindled by the observed variations in the results of physically demanding tasks performed by personnel of the three Armed Services in joint military operations. The study was to assess the physical fitness of Nigerian Armed Forces personnel towards ensuring the proper assignment of physically demanding tasks to the Nigerian Armed Forces personnel during joint military operations in order to enhance operational efficiency.The research methodology applied in the study was basically descriptive. Data were collected using field method and document analysis. In achieving the purpose of the study, 35 male and 20 female Nigerian Army personnel, 30 male and 13 female Nigerian Air Force personnel and 25 male and 10 female Nigerian Navy personnel were randomly selected to serve as participants in this study. The 3.2km run/walk test for cardio-respiratory endurance, sit-up test for muscular endurance, push-up test for muscular strength and BMI computation for body composition were conducted on the participants. The data thus collected were statistically analyzed. The findings of this study revealed that the Nigerian Army personnel had significantly better cardio-respiratory endurance than their counterparts from the Nigerian Air Force and Nigerian Navy. Nigerian Army personnel also had significantly greater muscular strength and muscular endurance. Furthermore, the Nigerian Army personnel had significantly more favourable body composition. The performances of the participants in the tests were measured against the physical fitness standards established for the Nigerian Armed Forces. On the basisof the findings of this study, it was recommended that during joint military operations, the highest volume of physically demanding tasks should be assigned to the Nigerian Army personnel, followed by the Nigerian Navy and then the Nigerian Air Force. In addition, it was recommended that the three Armed Services should strengthen the physical training programmes of their female personnel. Furthermore, it was also recommended that the three Armed Services should embark on weight control programmes for their personnel.
1.0 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The promotion of physical fitness through physical activity among children, adolescents and adults has become a public health objective. In recent years around the world, there has been serious concern over declining physical activity levels among these segments of the population as a result of more time spent on less vigorous recreational activities, such as Video Games and Watching Television (Dinubile, 1993).
Research evidence has shown that vast technological progress made in modern times has markedly affected lifestyle of many societies and has crept into developing countries at a fast rate, thus changing the whole pattern of our lifestyle, rendering the whole generation inactive, declining their day to day performance at work and during physical activity (Chado, 1992; Montoye, 1985).
Physical fitness is an essential requirement not only for optimal health, but also for better performance and quality of life (Hayward; 1998; Venkateswarlu; 2009, 2010). It is of particular importance to Armed Forces all over the world, not only because of its benefits, but also because it makes the soldiers battle ready. A soldier’s level of physical fitness has direct impact on combat readiness. The many battles in which American troops have fought underscores the important role physical fitness plays on the battle field. The role of regular participation in a sound physical fitness programme and maintenance of healthy weight is to enhance a person’s quality of life, improve productivity and bring about positive physical and mental changes (United States President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport: USPCPFS, 2005).
Nigerian Armed Forces personnel are required to be physically fit to meet certain military operational requirements. These include ability to perform under a wide range of geographical and environmental conditions as well as coping with the stress of sustained operations. Thus, physical fitness training forms an important part of the Nigerian Armed Forces physical education programme.
The concept of Joint Military Operations requires the personnel of the three Armed Services (Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force) to function as a unit in the theatre of operation. The achievement of results in physically demanding tasks assigned to the personnel has thus, made it imperative for the Nigerian Armed Forces to have a well-developed physical fitness training programme. This physical fitness programme is developed to cater for cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance and body composition. However, the physical fitness of the personnel from the three Armed Services which is measured against the Nigerian Armed Forces Standard Physical Fitness Chart at Appendix II, has been questioned owing to the observe variations in the results of physically demanding tasks they perform. These variations paint an unclear picture of the personnel levels of physical fitness and thus, have negative effects on the operational efficiency of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The foregoing, calls for the need to compare the physical fitness of Nigerian Armed Forces Personnel. The purpose of this study is to assess the physical fitness of Nigerian Armed Forces personnel towards ensuring the proper assignment of physically demanding tasks to the personnel for the enhancement of the Nigerian Armed Forces’ operational efficiency. This study is therefore motivated by the need to appropriately assign physically demanding tasks to the personnel of the three Armed Services towards enhancing the operational efficiency of the Nigerian Armed Forces
1.1 Statement of the Problem
The Nigerian Armed Forces policy on physical training is a course of action crafted to enhance the performance of its personnel for the effective and efficient attainment of operational objectives. Basically, this revolves around enhancing the quality of the personnel and prepares them effectively for combat roles.
The ability of the Nigerian Armed Forces to tackle security threats thus, requires having personnel that are physically fit. However, the physical fitness of the personnel from the three Armed Services which is measured against the Nigerian Armed Forces Standard Physical Fitness Chart at Appendix II, has been questioned owing to the observed variations in the results of physically demanding tasks they perform. These variations paint an unclear picture of the personnel levels of physical fitness and thus, have negative effect on the operational efficiency of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
From the foregoing, if the observed variations are not catered for, it would remain difficult to properly assign physically demanding tasks to the personnel of the three Armed Services towards enhancing the operational efficiency of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
1.2 Research Questions
This study was conducted to answer the following specific research questions:
- Do the Personnel of the Nigerian Armed Forces differ in their cardio-respiratory fitness?
- Do the Personnel of the Nigerian Armed Forces differ in their muscular strength?
- Do the Personnel of the Nigerian Armed Forces differ in their muscular endurance?
- Do the Personnel of the Nigerian Armed Forces differ in their body composition?
1.3 Basic Assumptions
On the basis of available research evidence, the following basic assumptions were made for the purpose of this study.
- Cardio-respiratory fitness, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and body composition change with age and lifestyle.
- Response to training programme is highly related to age, sex, physical activity and lifestyle patterns of participants.
- These characteristics can be objectively measured and quantified.
Based on the research questions and basic assumptions of this study, the following hypotheses were made.
There are no significant differences in cardio – respiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance and body composition among Nigerian Armed Forces Personnel.
1.4.1 Sub – Hypothesis
- There is no significant difference between the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force personnel in cardio- respiratory endurance.
- There is no significant difference between the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force personnel in muscular strength.
- There is no significant difference between the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force personnel in muscular endurance.
- There is no significant difference between Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force personnel in body composition.
1.5 Significance of the Study
This research is justified based on the following:
The physical fitness components for most Armed Forces all over the world include cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance and body composition. The results of the study would indicate the differences in the physical fitness of the personnel of the three Armed Services. This will in turn ensure the proper assignment of physically demanding tasks to the personnel for the enhancement of the operational efficiency of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
Research evidence has clearly shown significant differences between male and female adults. Such differences appear to affect the standards in different components of physical fitness, which has implications for designing appropriate training programs for male and female adults. The results of this study will show the difference, if any, between male and female Armed Forces Personnel in different components of physical fitness which will have implications for designing their fitness programs.
This study may bring to light new areas for further research relating to different aspects of physical fitness of Nigerian Armed Forces Personnel.
This study was delimited to the following:
- This study was conducted only on 90 male and 43 female personnel of the Nigeria Armed Forces Selected from the 900 male and 430 female Service Personnel resident in Mogadishu Cantonment, Asokoro, Abuja.
- The components of physical fitness measured in the study was delimited to cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance and body composition of the Nigerian Armed Forces Personnel.
This study had the following limitations that would be considered during interpretation of the results:
i. Body composition is better assessed by laboratory methods using sensitive instruments like computer tomography, hydrostatic weighing, bioelectric impedance and dual-energy X-Ray absorptiometry. However, because of the non-availability of the instruments; body composition was estimated by computing body mass index.
- Cardio – respiratory endurance was not tested by laboratory experiment because of lack of equipment. It was estimated by the 3.2km run test.
1.8 Operational Definition of Terms
The following are the operational definitions of terms used in the study:
Armed Forces Personnel: Refers to an individual serving in the Armed Forces who is between 20-45 years for male and 20-35 for female.
Body Composition: Body composition refers to the fat and non-fat components of the human body. It is important in assessing recommended body weight.
Body Mass Index: Body mass index is the most common technique used to determine thinness and excessive fatness in the body. It incorporates height and weight to estimate critical fat values at which the risk for diseases increases.
Cardio-respiratory Endurance: Cardio-respiratory Endurance is the ability of the lung. Heart and blood vessels to deliver adequate amount of oxygen to the cells to meet the demands of prolong physical activity.
Muscular Endurance: Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle to exert sub-maximal force repeatedly overtime.
Muscular Strength: Muscular strength is the ability of a muscle to exert maximum force against resistance.
Physical Fitness: It is the ability to perform daily tasks, vigorously and alertly, with energy left over for enjoying leisure time activities and meeting emergency physical activity demands.