Total Force Fitness and How to Make the Best of Stress

By Human Performance Resources by CHAMP at the Uniformed Services UniversityJune 26, 2024

(FORT MOORE, Ga) -  Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course students conduct their initial Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) Nov. 22, 2023, at Peden Field. The ACFT is designed to increase Soldier's overall physical fitness levels through a series of...
(FORT MOORE, Ga) - Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course students conduct their initial Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) Nov. 22, 2023, at Peden Field. The ACFT is designed to increase Soldier's overall physical fitness levels through a series of holistic health and fitness exercises including the standing power throw, plank, two-mile run, sprint-drag-carry, deadlift, and hand release push-ups. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, MCoE Photographer) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Total Force Fitness is a framework that enables human beings to get healthy and become high-performing service members. It consists of eight interrelated domains. Together, these domains offer a holistic look at what positively or negatively affects a service member’s health and performance. As a framework for military fitness, TFF suggests that supporting each domain can help service members to enhance their job performance and sustain their health while in the military.

To achieve this, service members need to develop internal resources in each domain that match the demands of their military lives. And they need to have access to tools, services and programs from the Department of Defense, their branch of service and their communities that support TFF. The eight domains are:

·      Physical fitness: Strength and agility, aerobic capacity, muscular endurance and functional mobility

·      Social fitness: Family and community engagement, cultural inclusiveness, peer-to-peer networks, leadership skills and unit cohesion

·      Psychological fitness: Proactive recovery for thriving, cognitive function, mental acuity and self-actualization

·      Environmental fitness: Heat, cold, altitude, noise, air quality and whole-body vibration

·      Nutritional fitness: Access to high-quality foods, mission-driven macro- and micro-nutrient requirements, dietary supplement use and healthy dietary choices

·      Financial fitness: Debt-management skills, responsible money management, insurance and emergency planning, and investment-wealth strategies

·      Spiritual fitness: Sense of identity and belonging, awareness of meaning and purpose, embracing service core values, and ability to cope

·      Medical and dental preventive fitness: Health assessments, screening, immunizations and pre-habilitation, which are physical and lifestyle preparations to improve recovery time

Total Force Fitness and Performance

Along with each of the eight individual domains of TFF, the intersections of these domains are critical to understand how you can improve your health, wellness and performance. Take sleep, for example. Sleep is an important internal resource that affects health and performance. If you’re struggling to sleep well, and you think about the domains of TFF, you begin to see the range of reasons you could have sleep issues. Maybe you’re struggling to sleep because of anxious thoughts (psychological). Or perhaps you stay up late to spend time with your partner because your schedules don’t often otherwise align (social). Maybe you tend to drink caffeine too late in the day (nutritional), and that interferes with your ability to wind down. Or your body is sensitive to exercising late in the day (physical). Perhaps you have a hormonal imbalance (medical or dental) that makes it challenging for you to get into a rest-and-digest state. Or you can’t sleep because your bedroom is too hot or too cold or your partner snores loudly (environmental).

Not only might the individual domains of TFF play a part in your sleep cycle, it’s also possible that the intersection of these domains can have a compounding effect on sleep quality. For example, you had to work late, so you drank some caffeine to stay up, and then when it was time to go to bed your child woke up, so that kept you awake. And after that, you had trouble winding down because you were stressing about finances, and so on. At work the next day, you might be groggy, slow to make decisions, less aware of your emotions and less focused. Addressing only one of these concerns might not get you to a good night’s rest. And your job performance could continue to suffer. Sleep is just one example of how multiple TFF domains can intersect to affect your performance.

How Total Force Fitness Helps Commanding Officers and Service Members

TFF also has a unique focus on helping service members excel at their jobs. The TFF framework is a way for commanders and service members to think about what helps—and what hurts—their ability to perform their mission-essential tasks. Each military occupation places a unique set of demands on service members. This is based on the tasks they perform as part of their occupation and assigned unit. Some occupations might require a certain number of internal resources from a specific TFF domain. For example, the tasks in some occupations are more physically demanding, such as infantry personnel who maneuver mortars and ammunition. Other jobs are more cognitive, such as intelligence or language analysts. And others have a social focus, such as those in public affairs positions, who conduct interviews, or human resources development personnel, who recruit and train military personnel. Commanders and service members can use the TFF framework to think through how to prioritize services and programs to better support service member performance in these unique roles while still offering opportunities to bolster wellness across all domains of TFF.