Background: The role of physical conditioning in tolerance to +Gz remains the subject of debate, particularly in relation to the relative merits of aerobic vs. anaerobic conditioning. The purpose of this study was to document the patterns of physical conditioning in Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter pilots and to relate these findings to the question of +Gz tolerance. Methods: A questionnaire was used to determine the physical conditioning activities of RAAF F/A-18 pilots. Aerobic fitness levels (Vo₂max) were determined in a sample of eight pilots using a progressive cycle ergometer protocol. Results: Of the 42 F/A-18 pilots who completed the questionnaire, 86% reported regular physical conditioning, mostly three times per week. Aerobic activities were the most common (83%), with running the most popular activity (55%). Anaerobic activities were reported by 26% of respondents. Most respondents reported doing more than one activity, with an average weekly training volume of 129 ± 77 min. The ergometer test results revealed a mean Vo₂max of 50 ± 6 ml 0₂ ·kg· min⁻¹ Condusion: The high rates of participation in regular physical activity suggest that physical fitness is perceived as important by the fighter pilot operating in the high +Gz environment. The fighter pilots in this study participated in aerobic activities at a much higher rate than anaerobic activities. The aerobic fitness levels measured suggest that the pilots have good but not exceptionally high levels of aerobic power that are unlikely to influence +Gz tolerance.
Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine Vol. 70, Issue 8, p. 739-744