Life in the Military

Health & Fitness Requirements

The health and fitness of service members directly impacts the military readiness to effectively respond to and fight in all situations. The more prepared individuals are, the more prepared the Services are.


Air Force Staff Sgt. Jose Guevara Cortez meets up with Senior Airman Michael Stennis, a physical training leader who hosts fun workout sessions to help service members stay in shape.

Length 2:39 View Transcript


My name is Jose Guevara Cortez and I’m an Air Force staff sergeant, stationed at Joint Base, San Antonio. I’m looking to find out what life in the military is really like and how it may be different than what you think.

Today I’m meeting up with Senior Airman Michael Stennis. We’re both physical training leaders, who help service members stay in shape. I hear Michael brings a lot of fun to his workouts, so I wanted to learn how fitness plays a role in his life.

We’re both PTLs, Physical Training Leaders. Let’s talk about some of the things that we do to incorporate not only fitness but a little bit of fun and morale boosting to our flights.

One of my main things is just going around finding out what people do on their off time, when it comes to PT, and so people like -- “Oh, I do leg day.” “Well, what does leg day consist of?” Then I’m able to give them something that’s kind of like a little bit more aggressive. So you’re constantly going from this exercise to this exercise to this exercise. Never the same thing that we’re doing. Like, “What are we doing this week?”

“Well, we did that last week,” I don’t ever get that.

All right. So we kind of talked about fitness in the military. Right? We also kind of do

a lot of stuff outside. Like look where we’re at right now. We’re in a beautiful park.

Being outdoors, it gives you that sense of freedom. Hearing birds chirping and things

like that kind of puts your mind at ease.

You get -- yeah, get like --


-- this sense of serenity, you know. I like doing stuff like that, because it kind of

gives me time to focus on me as a person.

Every base has its own fitness center we can visit whenever we want, so earlier in the

day, I joined Michael for a workout at his gym.


He got my heart pumping and I learned some new exercises I’ll add to my own PT program.

All right. That’s...



That was good.

And we loved it!


It hurts!


That’s good.

After you get off work, what are some of the things that you choose to do for fun?

Last year, for a week, my brother came to see me during spring break. He stayed on base

and everything like that. Play basketball together, work out. We go to the movies, go

laser-tagging. One of the things that I get, especially from like family members and stuff

like that, they always ask you, “What is it like? What is it like?” And it’s just

like any other job. You got a time where you’re supposed to be there.


You got a time that you’re supposed to be off.

Oh, yeah.

But I had MTIs and everything telling me that when I was going through basic, it’s

totally different. You got to get through this certain portion of your career, of course,

because everyone else had to do it. But once you finish that and you get out there, you’re

able to live life the way that you want to live it.

From working out at the gym to trail runs to everything in between, you can see the

way we stay in shape is far from the stereotypical formations and screaming drill sergeants.

While we still have to pass an annual fitness test, how we prepare for the test is really

up to us. And there are so many ways to make that happen.


Physical Training

Service members are required to perform physical training (PT) throughout their careers to ensure they are ready for physically demanding situations that they may encounter in the Military. In some cases PT may be a group exercise activity where an entire unit follows an instructor’s lead, in other cases PT is largely left to the individual to ensure they are adhering to conditioning guidelines.

Physical Fitness Tests

Physical Fitness Tests (PFTs) go by different names across Service branches and are mandatory exams that measure if service members are maintaining a standard level of fitness for duty. Although each branch has different PFT requirements based on mission needs, these tests are designed to evaluate muscular strength, core endurance and cardiorespiratory fitness through activities like:

  • Pushups
  • Situps
  • Crunches
  • Forearm planks
  • Standing long jumps
  • Seated power throws
  • Strength deadlifts
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Interval aerobic runs
  • High aerobic multi-shuttle run (HAMR)

Periodic Health Assessments

Periodic Health Assessments (PHA) are screenings done by the Military to evaluate the Individual Medical Readiness (IMR) of all active-duty service members. All service members are required to complete a PHA annually, which includes:

  • A self-reported health status.
  • Measurement and documentation of vitals (height, weight, BP).
  • Vision screening.
  • Review of current medical conditions with health care providers.
  • Focused exam of identified conditions (as required).
  • Cardiovascular screening program services (as required).
  • Recommendations for improvement of identified health conditions.
  • Behavioral health screen.


How service members fuel their bodies is just as important as how they exercise them. To ensure members embrace a lifestyle of healthy food habits, dietitians and dietetic support specialists educate, guide and recommend well-rounded diets to those who serve.

Food service specialists also support members who are looking to reach their wellness goals by planning, preparing and providing nutritious food options at dining establishments at bases around the world. Additionally, commissaries carry a variety of healthy choices that promote overall well-being.

Other Fitness Programs

Other than staying active through required PT and personal pursuits like athletics and recreational activities, service members have access to specialty programs designed to strengthen their bodies and minds. Total Force Fitness is one such holistic program, and it’s available to the families of service members as well.