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Protecting Our Military, Part 1: Understanding The Physical Demands Of Each Branch

June 1, 2021
June 21, 2023
Unidentified members of the US Marines test fair-goers for fitness at the Minnesota State Fair

When most of us think about people who are at the top level of physical fitness, we probably think about elite athletes, body builders, gym rats, and members of the United States Military - some of the most physically fit and healthy members of the population.

One recent study found that:

“more than 17 percent of military personnel were considered obese across the Department of Defense (DOD), up from less than 16 percent four years earlier... For the Navy, the rate was 22 percent, compared to 8.3 percent of Marines.”

With obesity rates for the general population well over 40 percent, these statistics go to show that U.S. military members are significantly healthier than the rest of us. Part of the reason for this is because the physical boot camp requirements essentially force military personnel to be in top shape. Among active military recruits, the physical demands of their daily tasks require elite fitness, strength, and overall health levels.

In this five-part series, we will take an in-depth look at a few of the overarching military physical fitness demands for each military branch, including the Army, Navy, and Marines. In this first article, we will look specifically at the boot camp requirements for physical fitness, and explain the standards outlined in a military Physical Fitness Test (PFT).

Boot Camp Physical Fitness Requirements

There are dozens of popular movies that parody the agony of overweight military recruits trying to struggle their way through boot camp exercises. Almost always, these movies show the extreme physical rigors of boot camp and/or Basic Training exercises, accompanied by a demanding lieutenant who has zero tolerance for the recruits’ inability to complete a demanding obstacle course. Despite the obvious “Hollywood effect” of these movies, the different branches of the military do use boot camp and basic training as a strategy to filter some of the potential military recruits.

According to Air University of the U.S. Air Force:

“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. ... Airmen must be physically fit to go into battle and be able to execute the mission.”

The same standards and rationalizations hold true for other branches of the military.

Military Physical Fitness Test Requirements

Each of the five branches of the U.S. Military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard) have similar but different military physical fitness tests and standards. Below, we briefly outline the main components and standards of the physical fitness tests for new recruits and officers seeking entrance into the military in each branch of the military.


  • Crunches, 2 minutes
  • Pull-ups, to the Maximum Repetition
  • 3-mile run, timed 
  • Push-ups, to the Maximum Repetition (recent addition to the PFT)

The maximum score for the USMC PFT is 300, and this branch of the military arguably has the most rigorous PFT. You can find more detailed information here. 


  • Push-ups, 2 minutes
  • Sit-ups, 2 minutes
  • 2-mile run, timed

Military recruits to the army have to pass the Army physical fitness test by scoring at least 60 points on each event and an overall score of at least 180 points. The maximum score is 300. More information can be found here.


The Navy has slightly different PFT standards as the seaborne nature of their work requires different physical fitness standards. Active duty sailors are able to choose between the 1.5-mile run or 500-yard swim as part of the Navy Physical Readiness Test. For recruits who are attending boot camp, however, the 1.5 mile run is obligatory.
The Navy Physical Fitness Test consists of: 

  • Push-ups, 2 minutes
  • Sit-ups, 2 minutes
  • 1.5-mile run or 500-yard (450-meter) swim

Air Force 

Lastly, the Air Force Physical Fitness Test, which was updated in 2013, requires the following: 

  • Push-ups, 1 minute
  • Sit-ups, 1 minute
  • 1.5-mile run, timed

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Work-Fit is a leading provider of onsite injury prevention and management for all different types of workforce environments. Our trained and certified healthcare professionals have decades of experience applying the leading sports medicine techniques in a wide variety of workplace settings.

Our expertise in wellness management, injury prevention, ergonomics, and injury management is essential to the extreme physical requirements of military recruits and personnel.

Contact Work-Fit today to start building a comprehensive physical wellness plan to ensure your military recruits and personnel can withstand the extreme physical fitness requirements of basic training and defending our country.


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