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Physical Fitness Holistically Integrates with All Total Force Fitness Domains to Support Readiness

Image of Physical Fitness Holistically Integrates with All Total Force Fitness Domains to Support Readiness. Regardless of service branch or occupation, physical fitness supports each of the other seven domains that make up the Department of Defense Total Force Fitness framework. It also plays important roles in health, well-being, and mission readiness. Be sure to celebrate National Physical Fitness and Sports month in May and fit some physical activity into your day. (DHA Public Health graphic illustration by Michelle Phillips)

What comes to mind when you think about physical fitness, health, and readiness? Perhaps, you think about meeting body composition standards or passing annual fitness tests. You may also think about how doing your job is a little easier when you’re in better shape.

By being physically fit, airmen, Guardians, Marines, sailors, and soldiers ensure they are physically ready to meet the demands of their job duties. Being in shape can also reduce the risk of developing many chronic illnesses and even shows improved mental health.

These fitness benefits can be attained through participation in aerobic activity and strength training that meets the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommended Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Current guidelines recommend 150 to 300 minutes of moderate, or between 75 and 150 minutes of vigorous, aerobic activity and at least two strength training sessions per week. Other ways to improve and sustain physical fitness include participation in team sports and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Physical fitness is just one part of ensuring readiness, health, and well-being. There are also other important ways that service members can remain fit and ready to serve. Healthy habits like exercising regularly, eating nutritious foods, attending yearly medical appointments, and even successfully managing finances, can help to ensure service members are mission ready.

In support of these strategies, the Department of Defense has developed a framework, or interconnected system of behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs, called Total Force Fitness, to support prevention and readiness efforts.

Total Force Fitness addresses eight domains, or areas, of service member health, well-being, and mission readiness. These domains interact with one another to help service members feel and perform their best. While some of these domains, such as Physical, Nutritional, Medical and Dental, and Psychological Fitness, might seem obvious to most service members, there are also additional domains that might surprise you. The Financial, Social, Spiritual-Ideological, and Environmental Fitness domains are just as important as the others for ensuring that service members remain fit and ready to fight.

In support of May’s National Physical Fitness and Sports month, here are a few ways in which the Physical Fitness domain interacts with the remaining seven TFF domains to support service member health, well-being, and mission readiness:

  • Physical fitness, healthier food choices, and better eating behaviors often go hand-in-hand.
    • A 2020 study of service members published in the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that individuals who participate in regular physical activity, such as high intensity interval training, often also practice healthier eating habits like eating more fruits and vegetables and not skipping breakfast. A 2021 study in the Journal of Nutrition and Behavior also shows that healthy nutrition behaviors can support service members’ physical fitness and body composition goals.
  • Physical fitness supports better mental health.
  • Physical fitness can promote healthy social ties and effective teamwork.
    • Social and communication skills are important in the military, where the ability to successfully work with others as a team is a highly valued skill. Research suggests that individuals with experience participating in team sports may have better communication skills. Additionally, a study of service members showed that better physical efficacy, or belief in the capability to perform well on physical tasks involving muscular and cardiovascular strength and endurance—both supported by better physical fitness—may promote a team’s social cohesion. This is the development of a united group, which is an important factor for the success of military units.
  • Spiritual and ideological fitness can promote improved physical fitness through participation in physical activity.
  • Physical fitness can protect against the development of short- and long-term medical conditions.
  • Financial fitness, marked by healthy spending and saving habits, can support physical fitness.
    • Financial strain, which can occur because of poor budgeting, overspending, or spending money on unnecessary items (which might also be associated with lower fitness, like tobacco and/or alcohol), can negatively impact mental health. In turn, research shows that mental health disorders like depression can negatively impact service members’ participation in physical activity.
  • Physical fitness can be protective in harsh or challenging environments.
    • Service members who are more physically fit are generally less likely to suffer from heat-related illness while training in hot climates and may perform better under the stress of flight-related duties, especially service members flying high-performance aircraft under high G-forces.

Regardless of service branch or occupation, physical fitness supports each one of the other seven TFF domains and plays important roles in health, well-being, and mission readiness. Be sure to celebrate National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and fit some physical activity throughout the rest of May.

For more resources on Total Force Fitness and how to fit more physical activity into your day, visit hprc-online.org/total-force-fitness/tff-strategies/total-force-fitness-your-roadmap-peak-performance-and-military.

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Last Updated: May 29, 2024
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