Physical fitness is an integral part of being in the military because it helps personnel to perform their jobs well and safely. This is why the military has set standards for how fit all members must be. But meeting these standards is not just for military personnel.
Understanding military fitness standards can also help those thinking about joining the military or, perhaps, wanting to figure out how fit they are.
Here we will explain what military fitness is, why it is essential for the military, and how you can tell if you are military fit.
What is Military Fitness?
Simply put, military fitness encompasses the physical fitness standards of each branch of military service. These standards aim to ensure that service members are physically fit enough to do their jobs well and safely.
Military fitness consists of two elements:
- Basic fitness: Foundational training that prepares personnel for the more arduous physical activity associated with combat fitness. Includes activities such as circuit training, running (short- and long-distance, fartlek, sprints, etc), and stretching/mobility routines.
- Combat fitness: This includes activities designed to inure personnel to the rigours of combat and combat-related activities. For example, personnel may patrol for many miles with heavy equipment at a slow/medium pace and then engage an opponent, and sprint with that heavy equipment over short distances.
With this in mind, military fitness aims to ensure that personnel can do their jobs physically (through progressive training), help them stay healthy (reduce injuries), and happy (mental well-being) throughout their military careers and after they transition back to a civilian environment.
Military fitness training is meant to prepare personnel for the physical challenges of combat and the physical demands of their daily jobs. A high level of military fitness is important for success in the military and is a key part of an individual’s overall readiness for military operations.
Why Is Physical Fitness Important to the Military?
Here are some reasons why physical fitness is important to the military:
1. Efficiency during Military Operations
During military operations, personnel often have to do hard physical tasks in austere environments. When personnel are physically fit, they can do their jobs well and safely, even running long distances, carrying heavy loads, or fighting.
2. Avoiding Injuries
Fitness can help keep you from getting hurt, reducing your chances of both acute and chronic injuries. By getting stronger and more durable in their muscles, becoming more flexible, and getting their heart and lungs in shape, personnel are less likely to get hurt from repetitive motions, falls, or accidents.
3. Mental Health
Regular physical activity and exercise have been shown to improve mental health and lower stress, anxiety, and depression. In the military, where personnel may be exposed to both combat and non-combat stress and trauma, being physically fit can help them be more resilient and improve their mental health.
4. Team Bonding
In the military, getting fit is often performed as a group activity, with personnel working out and training together. This can help personnel get to know each other and work as a team, which can be important for the success of a task.
5. Discipline and Self-Control
Getting and staying physically fit takes discipline and self-control, which are also crucial for success in the military. Personnel can learn the discipline and self-control needed to do their jobs well if they set fitness goals and follow a daily exercise routine.
7 Ways to Find Out Your Fitness
1. Check Your Body Mass Index (BMI)
Based on a person’s height and weight; the military has rules about how their bodies should be made up. With these standards, you can tell if someone has a good weight and healthy body fat. To determine if you meet these standards, you can measure your waist size and determine your body mass index (BMI).
To figure out your BMI, you need to split your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres. Most people’s BMIs should be between 18.5 and 24.9 to be healthy. But the military has its own BMI standards, which may differ from these general rules.
2. Get a Blood Test
Getting a blood test can also help determine your military fitness. A blood test can identify any underlying health conditions that may affect your ability to serve. For example, if you have a medical condition that requires ongoing treatment, you may not meet the military’s medical standards.
With the help of different online services, getting a blood test is easier than ever. If you need blood tests, you can order them online through Blood Test Canada, offering bloodwork across Ontario, Quebec, and recently in, Manitoba. Once you send your sample to a lab for testing, you should get the results back in a few days.
3. Cardiovascular Endurance
Cardiovascular fitness is an important part of military fitness because personnel have to stay active for long amounts of time, often while carrying heavy loads. The military puts a lot of stress on cardiovascular endurance, which is the ability of the heart and lungs to get oxygen to the muscles during physical exercise. To figure out how fit your heart is, you can run or walk for a set amount of time, like one or two miles, and time yourself to see how long it takes you to finish. You can use this time as a starting point to see how much better you get over time.
A VO2 max test is another way to determine how fit your heart and lungs are. This test is a more accurate way to measure how fit your heart and lungs are because it measures the most oxygen your body can use during activity.
The military says you should perform at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise with a moderate effort at least five days a week to improve your cardiovascular endurance. Running, biking, and swimming are all great ways to improve cardiovascular health. To avoid getting hurt and build up your fitness over time, you should gradually increase the intensity and length of your workouts.
Flexibility is a part of military fitness that is often ignored but is very important. Members of the military need to be able to do a lot of different physical things. To avoid getting hurt and do these things well, they need to be flexible. Exercises like the sit-and-reach test can be used to measure how flexible you are. This test measures the distance between your fingers and a box or wall while you reach forward with your legs straight.
Aside from the sit-and-reach test, yoga moves, for example, can also help you become more flexible. The military puts a lot of stress on flexibility because they know it helps reduce the risk of injury and enables personnel to be better at their jobs. Stretching and flexibility exercises can help you meet military fitness standards and improve your general health.
5. Strength and Endurance
Along with cardiovascular fitness, strength, and endurance are important components of both basic and combat fitness. Members of the military need to be strong and able to perform physical tasks for long amounts of time, such as lifting or carrying heavy equipment. You can test your strength and stamina by doing workouts with your own body weight, with weights, or with resistance bands.
Each branch of the military has its standards for strength and endurance, but as a general rule, men should be able to do at least 40 push-ups/press-ups and 50 sit-ups in two minutes, and women should be able to do at least 17 push-ups and 50 sit-ups in two minutes. Aside from push-ups and sit-ups, exercises like lifting weights are also good for building power.
6. Mental Fitness
Physical fitness is only one part of military fitness. Mental toughness and mental health are also important parts. In addition to being physically fit, the military wants its members to be emotionally strong and able to deal with stress. Mental toughness (or resilience) means being able to push through physical challenges, keep your mind on the task at hand when you are under a lot of stress, and keep going for long periods of physical activity/exercise.
You can test and improve your mental toughness by putting yourself through challenging physical and mental activities like obstacle courses and endurance runs, and facing your fears. It takes time and practice but is an important part of military training.
Mental health is as important as mental toughness if you want to do well in military service. Personnel may have to deal with much stress and suffering during service. Being mentally fit can help personnel be more resilient and deal with these problems. If you are considering joining the military, you should think about your mental health and, if you need help, talk to a mental health professional. Learning to deal with problems can also help you deal with worry and trauma. A number of militaries now have mental service that personnel can access, both during service and as veterans.
7. Agility and Coordination
Along with strength and endurance, agility and coordination are important physical traits highly valued in the service. These traits are important for doing a wide range of activities, from routine tasks, crossing in rough terrain to fighting.
The military frequently uses activities like the shuttle run and the ladder drill to evaluate a recruit’s coordination and agility. These activities require you to quickly change direction and keep your balance, which can help you get in better shape and prepare for military service.
To be physically and mentally fit for the military, you must consider strength, agility, and endurance. Even though the military fitness standards might seem hard to meet, there are ways to figure out how fit you are and how you can get fitter over time.
Remember that the key to your fitness journey is to stay consistent, inspired, and never give up. You can get fit and be ready for any hurdles that come your way if you work hard and are committed to your goals.
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