Purpose: To evaluate gender differences in physical fitness before and after a 4-month gender-integrated basic training (BT) course and to determine whether this program effectively narrowed the differences between male and female soldiers in physical fitness parameters.
Methods: One hundred and thirty-seven soldiers (109 females and 28 males) successfully completed a 4-month BT course in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The subject's physical fitness was evaluated pre- and post-BT by three laboratory tests [the maximal aerobic capacity (VO2max), the Leonardo Ground Reaction Force Plate, and the Wingate Anaerobic Test (WAnT)] and by the IDF physical fitness test (IDF-PT).
Results: Females significantly improved their scores in the IDF-PT and laboratory aerobic tests, whereas males significantly improved only in the IDF-PT. After BT, gender differences narrowed by approximately 4% in all tests except upper body strength. Although fitness improvement after BT was marginally higher in females than males, resulting in a slight narrowing of the gender differences, a significant gender gap in physical fitness still exists after BT.
Conclusions: There was only a small overlap in physical abilities at the beginning of BT, which indicated vast differences in physical fitness between the genders. As expected, integrated combat BT improved physical fitness. Although females demonstrated marginally higher improvement in aerobic capacity, basic physiological gender differences were still evident at the end of the training regimen.