Skip to main content

Military Health System

As Fitness Tests Resume, Troops Seek Post-COVID Exercise Routines

Image of Military personnel physically training. Soldiers assigned to the 1-125 Field Artillery perform the maximum deadlift event during their Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) diagnostic on Aug. 20, 2021, at Camp Ripley, Minnesota. Designed with the latest exercise science and physical training insights, the ACFT empowers soldiers to complete a variety of combat tasks and will go into effect in the spring of 2022 (Photo by: National Guard Sgt. Mahsima Alkamooneh).

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Last year, as the global pandemic forced abrupt lifestyle changes across the country, many service members saw their exercise routines disrupted and their everyday physical activities reduced.

That's when Army Col. Patrick Donahue decided to find new ways to stay in shape.

"I was concerned about losing my physical fitness," Donahue, the brigade commander at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, recalled in a recent interview.

"I enjoy my food and drink, and in order to maintain my physical fitness levels and caloric intake, I had to add a [stationary bike] and yoga to my regimen."

Donahue is among many service members who've reassessed their physical fitness needs in light of shifting lifestyles and COVID-era restrictions.

Making weight and passing semi-annual fitness tests have always been a challenge for some service members. It can prompt them to do a lot of unusual things: Think Saran Wrap and saunas (to sweat off a few pounds), or hemorrhoid cream (to shrink waistlines temporarily).

Passing the physical fitness exam - which includes meeting weight and body fat composition standards - can have a major impact on promotions and career advancements. It can even result in the premature end to a military career.

After the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, all military branches suspended their physical fitness testing requirements.

The services have all resumed those tests this year - and for some service members, getting back into shape was not easy.

COVID's Impact on Total Force Fitness

What impact did COVID-19 have on physical fitness and Total Force Fitness?

The answer is not simple.

Some people used the time to redouble their fitness efforts as a way to cope with stress, said Army Col. (Dr.) Catherine Kimball-Eayrs, the commandant of the USUHS F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine.

Military personnel doing a leg tuck
Spc. Johnson Ongenyo, a motor transport operator assigned to 1-125 Field Artillery, conducts a leg tuck on Aug. 20, 2021, at Camp Ripley, Minnesota (Photo by: National Guard Sgt. Mahsima Alkamooneh). section

Others, however, could not focus on their physical fitness for a variety of reasons, and some just had a hard time of it, she said. For example, some service members were suddenly working from home where they sought out comfort food, or just lost the routine activity that they would normally do during a commute.

"A lack of everyday activity negatively affected people," she said.

Some of that has changed in the last six months, Donahue suggested, with gyms, yoga studios and other fitness centers reopening as people use masks and get the COVID-19 vaccines.

"This is a good thing, especially for the younger generation, such as USU students, because their spiritual, psychological and social wellness was negatively affected by the COVID social distancing requirements and the necessity for online learning," he said.

"They felt like their world was collapsing."

Getting Back in Shape

To get back in the game, Kimball-Eayrs suggested first having a discussion with a primary care provider. "Start a discussion first before you make any changes," she said.

"This is a marathon. You can't fix it overnight. You need to have patience; you need to take the long view about ramping up to full physical fitness," she said.

A great source for fitness information is USU's Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) Human Performance Resources program, Kimball-Eayrs said.

She pointed to the CHAMP Rehab, Refit, Return to Duty RX3 website and to the Go for Green nutrition website as good places to start for those who feel their physical and nutritional fitness have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Or go to the outpatient nutrition clinic at your military medical treatment facility or wellness center on post, she suggested.

She speaks from experience. As she has aged into her military career and after three pregnancies, she said passing the fitness test has become tougher.

"I had to make changes to stay fit for the exam," Kimball-Eayrs said. "I had to get a feel for adjusting my activity or adjusting my calories." For example, she now does planks rather than knee tucks as part of her physical fitness program.

"Physical fitness is more than your body mass index, PT run time, or how many push-ups you can do," Total Force Fitness materials state. "To optimize your physical fitness you need strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance all working together."

You also may be interested in...

Genome Sequencing Assists Research at Naval Health Research Center

Article
1/24/2023
Lab technicians doing genome research

Learn how unique samples from naval vessels, US-Mexico border populations, and DOD beneficiaries aided in the Naval Health Research Center’s sequencing efforts.

Recommended Content:

Research & Innovation | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus

U.S. Military HIV Research Lends Lessons Learned to COVID-19

Article
1/19/2023
Gloved hands working in laboratory

The U.S. military has engaged in HIV research for three decades, contributing critical lessons learned, knowledge, and expertise during the COVID-19 research and vaccine development effort.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | DOD HIV/AIDS Prevention Program | Research & Innovation | Coronavirus

Naval Medical Research Center Uses Genome Sequencing for Variants

Article
1/12/2023
Military personnel pose for a group photo

NMRC’s efforts provided important support for sequencing and viral isolation to the Department of Defense and Military Health System.

Recommended Content:

Research & Innovation | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus

USAMRIID Focuses on Genome Sequencing to Detect Variants

Article
1/5/2023
Military medical personnel in laboratory

A connected family of laboratories across the MHS allows a more rapid response to the outbreak.

Recommended Content:

Research & Innovation | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus

Whole Genome Sequencing at Tripler Army Medical Center

Article
12/29/2022
Dr. Keith Fong reviews data with other lab technicians

The third installment in a 6-part series highlighting the efforts of the Military Health System laboratories and the technicians who worked to identify COVID-19 variants using special sequencing technology.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Research & Innovation | Coronavirus

Walter Reed Army Institute of Research Implements SARS-CoV-2 Genome Sequencing

Article
12/23/2022
Military medical personnel in laboratory

This is the second article in a 6-part series that highlights the work of technicians and scientists in Military Health System laboratories who worked to identify COVID-19 variants using special sequencing technology.

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Research & Innovation

How Blue Angels and Thunderbirds Keep Flying 300 Days a Year

Article
12/16/2022
U.S. Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Travis Grindstaff at Nellis Aviation National air show

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds high-performance demonstration teams rely on their flight surgeons to sustain their readiness for more than 300 shows a year.

Recommended Content:

Civil Support | Health Readiness Support | Physical Fitness

Military Labs Use Whole Genome Sequencing of COVID-19 Variants

Article
12/16/2022
Lab technician at work

The first in a 6-part series highlighting the work of technicians and scientists working in support of the MHS who identified COVID-19 variants using special sequencing technology.

Recommended Content:

Research & Innovation | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus

DOD Reduces Health Care Waste by Reusing Crutches

Article
12/15/2022
Military personnel using crutches

When military facilities faced a national shortage of an essential mobility aid, they launched a grassroots initiative that not only ensured patient care, but also created a new waste reduction model within the DHA.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

How the U.S. Military Acclimates Units to High-Altitude Operations

Article
11/28/2022
Service members on a mountain

The Military Health System takes measures to prevent and mitigate altitude sickness in service members operating at high altitudes. For best results, it’s key to acclimate units gradually and progressively.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Health Readiness & Combat Support

Lifestyle Changes Could Add 10-15 Years to Your Life

Article
11/8/2022
A female Navy physical therapist works with a senior citizen lying on a table holding a ball.

You're never too old to start being more physically active and eating healthier, which can add years to your life.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Total Force Fitness

Time to Get Your Flu Shot and Your COVID-19 Booster, Too

Article
10/14/2022
Senior MHS officials and medics from the Pentagon stand together Oct. 13 after receiving their flu shots and bivalent COVID-19 boosters.."

It's flu shot time. Get your COVID-19 booster at the same time.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Toolkit | Immunizations | Coronavirus

Out for a Bike Ride? Remember These Safety Tips

Article
10/11/2022
A safety officer overlooks bike riders on a street

Bike riding is a popular form of transportation, physical activity, and fun, but doing it safely is key.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Summer Safety | Winter Safety

Prevent the Spread of Influenza and COVID-19 Viruses Within Your Community

Article
10/11/2022
A person getting an injection on their arm.

As families return from summer vacation and students return to school, the influenza (flu) season is approaching while the COVID-19 pandemic is still on-going.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Immunizations | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Toolkit

Telemedicine Privilege by Proxy Expands Access to MHS Care

Article
8/10/2022
Infographic featuring Lt Col Legault

MHS has Telemedicine Privilege by Proxy: A fast, efficient process that enables providers to file one application and get permission to virtually treat patients anywhere in the MHS.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Telehealth Program
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 19
Refine your search
Last Updated: January 25, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery