History of United States Army physical fitness and physical readiness training

US Army Med Dep J. Apr-Jun 2014;5-19.


This article traces the history of US Army physical fitness assessments from the first test developed for Cadets at the US Military Academy in 1858 through efforts to revise the current Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). The first "Individual Efficiency Test" (1920) for all Soldiers consisted of a 100-yard run, running broad jump, wall climb, hand grenade throw, and obstacle course. The first scientific efforts involved testing of 400 Soldiers and a factor analysis of 25 individual test items. In 1944, this resulted in a 7-item test (pull-up, burpee, squat jump, push-up, man-carry, sit-up and 300-yard run) with a 100-point scoring system. In 1943, women were encouraged to take a "self-assessment" consisting of push-ups, bent knee sit-ups, wing lifts, squat thrusts, running, and a stork stand. In 1946, age-adjusted standards were introduced and in 1965 semiannual fitness assessments were mandated. The number of tests proliferated in the 1969-1973 period with 7 separate assessments. The current APFT consisting of push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile run was introduced in 1980 and alternative tests for those with physical limitations in 1982. Current efforts to revise the assessment involve systematic literature reviews and validating the relationship between test items and common Soldiering tasks.

Keywords: age; gender; measurement; obstacle course.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Medicine / history*
  • Military Personnel / history*
  • Physical Conditioning, Human / history*
  • Physical Conditioning, Human / methods
  • Physical Conditioning, Human / standards
  • Physical Fitness / history*
  • United States
  • Young Adult