Why Fitness Matters – Reviewing History of Army Fitness Testing

LAST UPDATED: January 28, 2022

Source: Army Public Health Center
Author: Douglas Holl

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- An important aspect of being a member of the U.S. military service is to meet basic physical fitness standards established by Department of Defense Instruction. The DOD requires each Service to establish its own physical training program to measure fitness in a way determined most relevant to that Service.

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

Regular activity and exercise is recommended for adults to maintain healthy fitness, but is especially important for adults who have physical jobs. The types and amounts of physical training and exercise can depend on the job duties.

Each Service in the military routinely monitors basic fitness levels using standardized test protocols on a semi-annual or annual basis. Test results provide a basis for determining physical performance capabilities and potential medical readiness weaknesses, such as injury risks.

The use of fitness tests to monitor or determine health status and job capability is common among military, police, and firefighters, says Veronique Hauschild, lead author of a 2019 systematic review of studies of physical fitness tests used by national and international organizations.

Changes in operations, equipment, and procedures, as well as science, have led to various changes to many organizations’ fitness testing programs over the years. This includes the U.S. military services.
Since 1980, the Army Physical Fitness Test, a three-test assessment that included 2-minute push-ups, 2-minute sit-ups, and a 2-mile timed run, has been the official Army test of record. One of the benefits of the APFT is the ease by which the Army could implement the test consistently to all Soldiers.

Over time, concerns regarding the APFT and its standards, its relationship to common military tasks, and its limited measure of Soldiers’ physical strength, were increasingly raised.

So after over 40 years of use, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command 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 power throw, hand-release push up, sprint-drag-carry, leg tuck hold, and 2-mile run. Alternative testing considerations include the option of the plank hold in place of the leg tuck.

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