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Physical Fitness: Differences between Civilian and Military Environments

To the average civilian, physical fitness may come in the form of a hobby or constitute a health priority. Thus, for the average community-dwelling citizen, physical activity and fitness are commonly a privilege. However, let us now shift and consider enlisted military personnel to whom, fitness is not a privilege, but rather a necessity.

In a field of combat, survival may depend on a soldier’s level of fitness. An individual’s functional capacity is directly linked to their fitness level. Critically, successful entry into the different military branches requires completion of and high marks on a physical readiness test (1). The physical and psychological demands imposed on Navy personnel continue on in basic training and throughout service (2)

In addition to maintaining a high level of fitness, a Navy Sailor must ensure they do not succumb to physical injury, which keeps them from properly executing their functions and hinders military readiness. Thus, the consequences affect not only the individual Sailor but also the Navy military operation as a whole. Nevertheless, physical injury is an unavoidable and frequent outcome for many sailors participating in basic training and other Navy operations. For instance, one study found that up to 25% of men and 55% of women experience physical injury throughout Army physical training requiring medical attention (3). However, many of the injuries sustained by military recruits can be avoided altogether through a variety of methods that involve proper stretching and execution of exercises (4).

The Navy Operational Fitness & Fueling System (NOFFS)

Given the considerations introduced above, the Navy Operational Fitness & Fueling System (NOFFS) was developed to optimize training, performance, nutrition and injury prevention for Navy Sailors. Additionally, NOFFS is a public resource that provides training “series” that can be accessed online by Sailors as well as civilians. These resources may be accessed through the Navy Fitness website located here. Different training programs (called “series”) on the website target different operational environments and require different amounts of exercise equipment. Altogether, these training regimens emphasize four key operational movements: pushing, pulling, lifting, and carrying. A free phone-based application is currently operational and can be used to access these exercises. More information on the application can be found here. Lastly, if one wishes to also incorporate the nutritional regimen, a virtual meal builder can be found using this link.

Goals for NOFFS

The first is to provide a training program that promotes efficacy and safety for Sailors participating in it.  NOFFS is further concerned with enhancing Sailor “resiliency” and “durability” (5).
Three components that are used to achieve these goals are:

  1. Incorporating movements and movement patterns into the training regimen that will be used in the field by Sailors
  2. Teaching basic principles of sound nutrition that can be implemented on and off-duty
  3. Using evidence-based practices to minimize injuries

In a general sense, NOFFS prepares Sailors for the operational environment they are entering by incorporating aspects of that environment into the training regimen. Movements, as well as a regimented schedule of eating, are central to the theory.

Functional movements are fundamental aspects of several professions, especially in military careers. NOFFS provides a series of training regimens that target functional movements and increase the success of the Sailor or individual when they enter their work environment. Beyond its use in the Navy, NOFFS may be valuable to the average civilian. The program is harnessed for weight loss, injury recovery, or any person who wants to try a new workout and eating regimen. Maintaining a level of fitness that meets military standards is no longer something that only military personnel has access to!

  1. Whitehead PN, Schilling BK, Peterson DD, Weiss LW. Possible New Modalities for the Navy Physical Readiness Test. Mil Med. 2012 Nov;177(11):1417–25. Possible new modalities for the Navy physical readiness test – PubMed (
  2. Nealey S. Perceptions of Navy Basic Training: Recruits Before and During Training. Final Report. Natl Tech Inf Serv. 1972 Oct;
  3. Jones BH, Knapik JJ. Physical Training and Exercise-Related Injuries: Surveillance, Research and Injury Prevention in Military Populations. Sports Med. 1999;27(2):111–25. Physical training and exercise-related injuries. Surveillance, research and injury prevention in military populations – PubMed (
  4. Kaufman K. Military training-related injuries Surveillance, research, and prevention. Am J Prev Med. 2000 Jan;18(1):54–63. Military training-related injuries: surveillance, research, and prevention – PubMed (
  5. Project Overview [Internet]. FITNESS, SPORTS AND DEPLOYED FORCES SUPPORT. Available from: Fitness, Sports and Deployed Forces Support :: NOFFS: Navy Operational Fitness & Fueling System (


For more information about this program, please watch the on-demand webinar:

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