Wearable trackers will replace the annual fitness exam at the Space Force, Military personnel is required to take annual physical fitness tests. The yearly assessment mandated by the Department of Defense is approached differently by each branch.
That concept, though, is being abandoned by the country’s newest arm of the military.
A yearly test will not be required of members of the Space Force, known as Guardians. As a replacement, they’ll be given smart rings or other wearable fitness equipment to keep track of their physical activity all year long. Devices that monitor mental wellness, a healthy diet, and a good night’s rest will also be available.
There will be more than just a single medical examination each year with this method, according to Space Force leadership. Some military soldiers have developed eating disorders or engaged in other harmful behaviors as a result of the yearly assessments.
Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Personnel Patricia Mulcahy stated in a memo: “This program will promote not only physical fitness; it will match fitness with thorough instruction on diet, sleep hygiene, and other physiological elements to enhance social, mental, and spiritual wellness as well.”
The new policy won’t go into effect in full until 2023, at the earliest. A 1.5-mile run time with one minute of pushups and situps is the final fitness test the Guardians must pass before they can join the Air Force.
“The overall fitness requirements will not change significantly,” said Chief Master Sgt. James Seballes, the command’s senior enlisted leader.
“The Air Force PT standards are still in use. Our attitude is what makes a difference, “he stated.
Garmin watches and Oura rings are being tested by the Space Force as part of its program. Guardians will be able to see their own fitness tracker data and compare it to that of their friends in a digital community.
When it comes to the annual test, FitRankings in Austin is developing an online platform that will provide guardians the opportunity to receive credit for the activities they already engage in.
He said, “Maybe you’re not excellent at running or you’re not good at pullups,” the CEO of FitRankings. “There is a certain amount of dimensionality to these tests that favor one activity form over the other.” “
One of my major annoyances was that A military source told Hitchins that he had heard of fitness testing. With FitRankings, you can translate any physical activity into MET minutes, which represents how much energy you’re using up.
In Hitchins’ words, “Guardians could conduct any type of activity.” “We could turn that into this measure and then develop a challenge based on that data to establish a culture and engage the community.”
Maj. Gen. Shawn Bratton, commander of Space Training and Readiness Command, who has been testing fitness tracking rings, expects Guardians to use the data to take more responsibility for their overall health.
In addition to taking a fitness test every year, Bratton may have to work out for 90 minutes a week, he said. That and my sleep patterns are both better monitored with the ring.
To ensure that Guardians are capable of carrying out their duties, Bratton explained that leaders want to place an emphasis on health that extends beyond physical activity.
It’s “go or no-go” when it comes to fitness, says Seballes. “You have it or you don’t.” “I’ve met people who can do all of their PT parts and run a really quick mile and a half, but their food and sleeping habits are also awful. They’re not good for you in the long run.”
Some military soldiers have been compelled to make risky actions as a result of traditional fitness testing methods. In the months leading up to their fitness examinations, several military personnel engages in eating disorders. Military personnel is more likely to suffer from eating disorder symptoms than their civilian colleagues, according to other research.
An increase in body dissatisfaction may be linked to increased attention on fitness or weight and form, according to Lindsay Bodell, an assistant professor of psychology at Western University in Ontario. During that period, people may be more aware of their physical appearance and performance.
More research is needed before experts like Bodell, who study the causes of eating disorders, can safely declare the two are linked. In addition, she noted, passing an annual fitness exam may be linked to promotion in military ranks and other prospects.
According to her, having these repercussions of not achieving the norm may push some to engage in “extreme” conduct in order to achieve them.
In his rebuttal, Bodell pointed out that wearing a fitness monitor isn’t a guarantee of success. The Pentagon still mandates that every branch of the military calculate body fat percentages and waist-to-height ratios, among other things.
In light of numerous research showing a link between fitness tracker use and eating disorder symptoms, Bodell said, “We may still wind up with similar results” if the emphasis remains on precise weight norms or weight management.
When people are constantly monitored and tracked for their health and fitness, it can lead to unrealistic expectations of what their bodies should look like, she warns.
In this regard, Elizabeth Eikey’s study makes a contribution. Using fitness trackers and apps, she researches how technology influences mental health and well-being as an assistant professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health at the University of California, San Diego.
According to Eikey, “for a long time, it was thought that more engagement with these tools—the more consistent, the longer you use them—the healthier you would be.” What we’re discovering, though, is that this isn’t universally true.
Self-reflection that leads to healthy lifestyles might be undermined if you have too much data about your health or fitness, according to Eikey, especially if you have higher stakes ambitions.
As long as the Space Force continues to reevaluate its physical standards, she isn’t opposed to that.
Eikey emphasized the importance of questioning fitness norms. “You should be proud of yourself for taking such action. Is this the best way to go about it, using these technologies?”
Public media collaboration American Homefront Project, based in North Carolina, created this piece for St. Louis Public Radio, which reports on American military life and veterans. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting provides the funding.