DVIDS – NEWS – Why is fitness important – Army physical fitness test history review

Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland – An important aspect of being a US military service member is meeting the basic physical fitness standards established by Department of Defense regulations. The Department of Defense requires each service to create its own physical training program to measure fitness in a manner that is more specifically relevant to that service.

Physical training programs required for military service members support the well-established, evidence-based Department of Health and Human Services recommendations for healthy adults to engage in 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, or alternatively 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity. In addition, adults should aim for two or three sessions of strength training each week.

Regular activity and exercise are recommended for adults to maintain a healthy fit, but are especially important for adults who are well-functioning. The types and amount of physical training and exercise can depend on the duties of the job.

Every service in the Army routinely monitors baseline fitness levels using standardized testing protocols on a biannual or annual basis. Test results provide a basis for determining physical performance capabilities and potential weaknesses in medical readiness, such as injury risks.

Veronique Hauschild, lead author of a 2019 systematic review of fitness test studies used by national and international organizations, says the use of fitness tests to monitor or determine health status and functional ability is common among the military, police and firefighters.
Changes in processes, equipment, and procedures, as well as science, have led to various changes in many physical fitness testing programs in many organizations over the years. This includes the US military services.

Since 1980, the Army Physical Fitness Test, a three-test assessment that includes two-minute push-ups, two-minute sit-ups, and a two-mile run, has been the Army’s official test. One of the advantages of APFT is the ease with which the Army can consistently implement testing for all soldiers.

Over time, concerns were raised about APFT and its standards, its relevance to joint military missions, and its limited measure of soldiers’ physical strength.

So after more than 40 years of use, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command has updated its Doctrine Field Manual (FM) 7-22, Holistic Health and Fitness to replace the APFT with the six-test Army Combat Fitness Test.

The ACFT includes the dead lift, standing force throw, hand raise, quick pull load, leg bend, and two-mile running. Alternative testing considerations include the option of installing a plank instead of a leg crease.

According to TRADOC, ACFT is more in line with combat activities and has received positive reviews from soldiers who have tested the new program.
TRADOC helps soldiers prepare for the test by providing ACFT updates as well as tips for training safely.

As previously reported by APHC, ACFT reinforces the importance of a more balanced fitness training regimen.

With ACFT, running two miles on time remains an important aspect of an Army fitness test. Although run times are expected to be slower than in the previous three-test APFT, the run test is an excellent measure of cardio-respiratory endurance, also known as aerobic fitness, Hauschild says.

“Based on a 2019 systematic review, aerobic fitness has been linked to performing more military missions than any other aspect of fitness.” Hauschild says.

But as the study demonstrated, and as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasized, physical fitness is more than just aerobic ability. Lower body and upper body strength are important fitness considerations for occupations that require vigorous physical activity such as the military.

While military fitness tests like the ACFT provide a basis for monitoring soldiers’ fitness levels, APHC has incorporated CDC activity guidelines into its Performance Triad Soldier Athlete goals, along with guidelines for proper nutrition and sleep habits.

Soldiers can use these goals as another tool to ensure that the optimal physical activity program is factored into their schedules.

The Army Public Health Center enhances the military’s readiness by identifying and assessing current and emerging health threats, developing and deploying public health solutions, and ensuring the quality and effectiveness of the Army’s public health organization.

Appointment booked: 01.19.2022
Announcement date: 01.19.2022 15:28
Story ID: 413101
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