July 17, 2012
Written by Steven Madison
When you are in the military, you know that reporting to your unit in poor physical fitness starts things off on the wrong foot. It’s not just a matter of pride; it’s important for the job.
Studies have found a strong correlation between the survival of soldiers on the battlefield after being wounded and the level of their physical fitness. The better shape you are in, the better it is for you and your unit.
With training exercises that include long-distance runs, pull-ups, push-ups, and other calisthenics, it should come as no surprise that the average U.S. soldier is in better shape than the typical American citizen. After all, it is one of the few professions where you actually get paid to work out!
Unfortunately, the U.S. population at large (no pun intended) is getting less and less fit. In fact, one study found that a third of the youth in the United States are not physically fit to serve. That worries some officials in the armed forces. If the trends of increasing obesity continue, it may be harder to find suitable candidates, making recruitment more difficult.
So what does the anatomy of a typical U.S. soldier look like?
Body – According to the CDC, less than 20% of Americans get the recommended level of exercise, and more than a quarter don’t spend any time doing physical activities. But military training clearly makes a big difference for individuals. Only 4.4 percent of the entire armed forces were overweight in 2009 compared to 63.1% (almost two thirds!) in the general population.
Muscles – Combat training prepares soldiers to handle intense conditions in all terrains and temperatures, and the rigorous training pays off in the end with improved overall strength. The
results are so effective that many civilian exercise programs are advertised as “military” routines, helping people get off the couch and get fit!
Heart – Another important part of training is endurance. Soldiers are typically asked to run, walk, and swim for one to ten miles, often with the added difficulty of heavy training gear. This
type of long-distance training helps build incredible stamina.
Mind – In October 2009, The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program was launched to help soldiers become more psychologically strong in the face of the extreme conditions of battle. A
recent study compared two different groups of soldiers over a period of 15 months and found that those who had taken the Master Resilience Training aspect of the CSF program scored significantly higher when tested for their psychological health using the Global Assessment Tool, or as it’s more commonly known, the GAT.
The result is a force made up of highly fit and well-trained soldiers – all without fad diets, expensive gym memberships, or fancy equipment. Many soldiers continue the habits they develop in military training for the rest of their lives, helping to improve their overall long-term health. Imagine what a difference it would make for the health of the entire United States if more of the population followed suit.
About the Author: Steven Madison researches anatomy models, and he is fascinated by the way human bodies are put together. He would like to take this opportunity to thank US troops for their service, and he does the same privately every day.