A soldier's level of physical fitness' has a direct impact on his combat readiness. The many battles in which American troops have fought underscore the important role physical fitness plays on the battlefield. The renewed nationwide interest in fitness has been accompanied by many research studies on the effects of regular participation in sound physical fitness programs. The overwhelming conclusion is that such programs enhance a person's quality of life, improve productivity, and bring about positive physical and mental changes. Not only are physically fit soldiers essential to the Army, they are also more likely to have enjoyable, productive lives.
This chapter provides an overview of fitness. It defines physical fitness, outlines the phases of fitness, and discusses various types of fitness programs and fitness evaluation. Commanders and leaders can use this information to develop intelligent, combat-related, physical fitness programs.
Physical fitness, the emphasis of this manual, is but one component of total fitness. Some of the "others are weight control, diet and nutrition, stress management, dental health, and spiritual and ethical fitness, as well as the avoidance of hypertension, substance abuse, and tobacco use. This manual is primarily concerned with issues relating directly to the development and maintenance of the five components of physical fitness.
The Army's physical fitness training program extends to all branches of the total Army. This includes the USAR and ARNG and encompasses all ages and ranks and both sexes. Its purpose is to physically condition all soldiers throughout their careers beginning with initial entry training (IET). It also includes soldiers with limiting physical profiles who must also participate in physical fitness training.
Commanders and leaders must ensure that all soldiers in their units maintain the highest level of physical fitness in accordance with this manual and with AR 350-15 which prescribes policies, procedures, and responsibilities for the Army physical fitness program.
Effective leadership is critical to the success of a good physical training program. Leaders, especially senior leaders, must understand and practice the new Army doctrine of physical fitness. They must be visible and active participants in physical training programs. In short, leaders must lead PT! Their example will emphasize the importance of physical fitness training and will highlight it as a key element of the unitís training mission.
Leaders must emphasize the value of physical training and clearly explain the objectives and benefits of the program. Master Fitness Trainers (MFTs), graduates of a special course taught by the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School, can help commanders do this. However, regardless of the level of technical experience MFTs have, the sole responsibility for good programs rests with leaders at every level.
A poorly designed and executed physical fitness program hurts morale. A good program is well planned and organized, has reasonable yet challenging requirements, and is competitive and progressive. It also has command presence at every level with leaders setting the example for their soldiers.
Leaders should also continually assess their units to determine which specific components of fitness they lack. Once they identify the shortcomings,
they should modify their programs to correct the weaknesses. Leaders should not punish soldiers who fail to perform to standard. Punishment, especially excessive repetitions or additional PT, often does more harm than good. Leaders must plan special training to help soldiers who need it. The application of sound leadership techniques is especially important in bringing physically deficient soldiers up to standard.