The success of the U.S. Army reflects the many skill sets of its Soldiers. Unique mental, intellectual, and physical abilities are necessary to meet a variety of unit mission goals. At a minimum, all must meet Department of Defense (DoD) physical fitness requirements for active Service Members.
This is not only to ensure all personnel are physically cable of common military tasks, but also to minimize injuries and the associated costs of lost duty days. Evidence shows that Soldiers who are overweight or who are underweight and have slow 2 mile run times have higher injury rates have been Soldiers who meet the Army's standards for physical fitness.
Though some military positions may seem to require less physical stamina than others, every Soldier needs to be prepared to be physical capable of being deployed and be able to conduct important tasks that require physical readiness such as:
- acquiring and engaging targets
- conducting individual movement techniques in full combat gear
- walking long distances under extreme conditions in full combat gear
- sending and receiving communications during physical exertion
The Health of the Force is critical to ensuring Soldier's abilities to successfully carry out their missions. Optimal weight and a progressive, regular physical training plan that follow good training principles ensure Soldiers achieve and maintain optimal military fitness to do well at their job, and live healthier.
Army data indicates that 90% of Soldiers are meeting the minimum adult physical activity goals recommended by:
- 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (or combination), and
- 2 to 3 sessions of strength building exercises each week.
Some of this reflects Soldiers' required unit's physical training. But as athletes, it is hoped that Soldiers will strive to optimize their performance and aim for the more appropriate higher standards of recommended fitness while balancing the activity with the risks of overuse injuries . The goal is:
- 300 minutes of a mix of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity each week
- 3 strength building sessions each week (30 to 60 minutes/session, alternate recovery days)
What does it mean to be physical fit in the Army?
The Army defines physical fitness based on DoD policy , which considers two factors: your body composition (specifically, the amount of body fat you carry which is percent body fat or %BF), and your ability to conduct standardized physical fitness tests:
Body Composition: The DoD standards require Service Members to a range between 18 to 26% body fat for men and 26 to 36% body fat for women. Because % body fat is difficult to measure, the Army uses "maximum allowable" gender and age adjusted weight-for-height standards (AR 600-9) as screening standards to ensure Soldiers are within the DoD standards.
Physical Test is measuring your ability to pass the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT).
The ACFT was designed to better assess Soldiers' abilities to perform common tasks to reflect combat readiness through six events: the dead lift, standing power throw, hand-release push up, sprint-drag-carry, leg tuck hold and 2-mile run. The ACFT is applied universally to all Soldiers and is age and gender neutral. The point system provides a baseline needed to pass (white) as well as three levels of increasingly fitness (Black, Gold, and Silver). A Soldier's fitness level will determine the types of military units or positions they are qualified to serve in based on the score.
While the ACFT is intended to improve Soldiers' physical performance and health in the long term, as with any new physical activity, it comes with potential injury risks. For more information about the ACFT injury risk see this article.
For details on the testing and training procedures go to the TRADOC ACFT website.
SPECIAL TRAINING PROGRAMS:
The Army has provided additional guidance for those who are injured and on temporary profile during rehabilitation, and female soldiers in the Pregnancy Postpartum Physical Training Program.
Rehab, Refit, Return to Duty (Rx3)
The Human Performance Resource Center Rx3 site provides guidance to help Military Service Members recover from and prevent common musculoskeletal injuries to optimize overall health, fitness, and performance goals.
Pregnancy Postpartum Physical Training Program
The Pregnancy Postpartum Physical Training Program (P3T) provides exercise recommendations in accordance with guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Visit the P3T webpage for more information.