commensurate with the active life style and deployability of the military profession. Such a DoD-wide generalized fitness standard will enhance overall health, physical well-being, military readiness, and appearance. This base level of fitness can then be used as a springboard to train personnel for further physically demanding occupational specialties or unit assignments and deployable combat readiness.

Military personnel who cannot maintain adequate levels of physical fitness are subject to various administrative penalties, up to and including dismissal from military service. As one Army publication notes, “Soldiers without medical profiles, who repeatedly fail the APFT [Army Physical Fitness Test], will be barred from re-enlistment or processed for separation from the service. A repetitive failure occurs when a soldier fails a record test, the soldier is provided adequate time and assistance to improve his or her performance, and failure occurs again” (U.S. Department of the Army, 2003:73).

Table 4-4 displays selected minimum requirements for passing the physical fitness assessments for personnel who have completed their initial entry training.

The rationale for physical fitness assessment components—and for the levels required to pass the assessments—varies by Service. For example, “The APFT [Army Physical Fitness Test] provides a measure of upper and lower body muscular endurance. It is a performance test that indicates a soldier’s ability to perform physically and handle his or her own body weight” (U.S. Department of the Army, 2005:5). Constable and Palmer (2000) describe the Services’ programs and their history and (to some extent) the rationale behind their programs. Standards to pass these assessments have generally been set on the basis of normative data collected by each Service.


This section presents a comparison of the physical fitness of military personnel (as reported in a variety of published studies) to the physical fitness of contemporary American youth (as assessed by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey).

The U.S. Population

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) began in 1970. It was designed to monitor the trends in prevalence, awareness, and treatment of selected risk factors and diseases of Americans. The participants in NHANES are civilian, noninstitutionalized residents

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement