Why Is Physical Fitness Important to the Military? Published May 11, 2020 By Cadet Gloria Reed Wild Blue Yonder / Maxwell AFB, AL -- When I was in high school, I was in the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (MCJROTC); I also was a member of the school’s cross country team. I saw differing perspectives between MCJROTC and cross country concerning fitness. This was because cross country is all about running, staying fit, and becoming stronger. MCJROTC was not focused on running; the program’s regimen was instead about crunches, push-ups, and pull-ups. My perspective on being physically fit changed when I joined the program, because you are using different muscles in the body and following a different mind-set. Throughout high school, I was taught by my captain that I was not done running the Physical Fitness Assessment unless everyone else was finished as well. This taught me to never leave a teammate behind, to motivate others, and to be disciplined. Physical fitness is important to the military because of health, the benefits of exercising, and job performance. The Air Force cares if Airmen work out, because the service wants its members to be healthy and strong. The service wants to reduce the health problems caused by obesity. If Airmen do not workout, their health will decline, and they will be unable to do their job. Airmen must be able to do their job right in whatever circumstance they are in. Airmen must be physically fit to go into battle and be able to execute the mission. Since the service cares about members’ health, it is important to run and exercise every day to stay fit. The Air Force wants Airmen to workout because doing so helps members not only physically but also mentally. It has been shown that physical training volume positively predicted mental strength. With this being said, it is an Airman’s duty to be ready for everything situation in which the Air Force is going to need them. This could be out in the field, having a desk job, or saving lives. Being fit is the number-one priority in any case or mission. Photo Details / Download Hi-Res (US Marine Corps graphic illustration by LCpl Leslie Alcaraz) Figure 1. Benefits of exercise. It is especially vital during the quarantine due to COVID-19 that service members stay in shape and maintain their health. Physical fitness can benefit Airmen because it will boost their productivity, help with stress, and build teamwork in the unit. As then–Lt Col Scott Anderson, former commander of the 13th Space Warning Squadron states, when an Airman is working out, he or she will experience “an increase in productivity, both mentally and physically.”1 When I am stressed about schoolwork or work, I go for a run, and I feel a lot better afterward. Running and exercising can clear the mind when you are worried about an assignment or mission plan. In his article, Anderson goes on to say, “dealing with stress in a positive way through exercise is preventative maintenance to help keep depression at bay.”2 Working out with your follow Airmen builds teamwork and camaraderie. An Airman can build camaraderie by hosting a hang out, running event, or sky-zone event, where there are obstacles the teammates must go through. When I was getting acquainted with the people in my detachment in high school, we would attend pool parties or hang out as a group. Many events build camaraderie, because we have something in common and we had build trust with one another. To be able to be an active Airman, one must have productivity, ease at mind, and chemistry with one’s fellow Airmen. Physical fitness can affect job performance, because if an Airman is not having a good day, exercising might help. According to a team of Norwegian researchers, the reason for this is because “developing good physical fitness in soldiers may also improve morale soldiers’ perception of being prepared for the mission.”3 When the Airman is not having a day, they are going to be in the wrong mind-set, and they might do the wrong thing. This means the Airman is stressed to the point where they cannot do their work right and will not care about the quality of how things are done. A few things that can affect their job performance include the “type of stressor or environmental demand, psychosocial moderators and mediators, the resulting psychosocial, physiological, and behavioral outcomes.”4 One suggestion for ensuring good performance at work is doing physical fitness at work or at home. The physical fitness benefits are improving sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, reducing the chances of joint and back pain, and improving the quality of life.5 These advantages can enhance job performance when Airmen are working on solving a situation or error. As a whole, physical fitness is important to the military because it maintains good health, helps keep members in shape, and enables Airmen to be productive on the job. To be able to be in the Air Force, you must have stamina and the will to do anything. With maintaining health, the Airman must keep themselves accountable for exercising and staying strong. An Airman needs to stay healthy because when under a lot of stress, he or she needs to be able to do something with that stress. To be able perform well, Airmen must workout or run to dial back the stress. Physical fitness is important because the Air Force wants its Airmen to be strong, successful, and fearless. Cadet Gloria Reed Cadet Reed is a second-year cadet in West Virginia University’s Air Force ROTC (Detachment 915). She is a cross country/track athlete at Waynesburg University. Her goal is to major in business management and commission into the Air Force. Outside of school, she enjoys running, hiking, watching sports, and painting. Notes 1 Scott Anderson, “Physical Fitness and Its Importance to the Airman,” Peterson Air Force Base website, 14 October 2014, https://www.peterson.af.mil/. 2 Ibid. 3 AM Pensgaard , DG Barlaug and SM Dyrstad, “Relationship between Soldiers' Service Performance and Physical Training Volume,” Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health 18, no. 2 (2010): 7–11, https://jmvh.org/. 4 Robert M. Bray, Carol S. Camlin, John A. Fairbank, George H. Dunteman, and Sara C. Wheeless, “The Effects of Stress on Job Functioning of Military Men and Women,” Armed Forces and Society 27, no. 3 (2001): 397–417, https://doi.org/10.1177/0095327X0102700304. 5 Public Health Scotland, “Physical Activity,” Healthy Working Lives (website), 3 March 2020, https://www.healthyworkinglives.scot/.