Taking care of yourself: Preparing for a fitness assessment

  • Published
  • By Kayla Scherf MFCS, RD, LDN and Capt. Meagan Bender
  • Health and Wellness Center
Every Airman needs to prepare physically and mentally for their fitness assessment.

Airmen are responsible for maintaining currency standards. Specifically, each Airman is responsible to know when his or her assessment is due, initiate the test arrangements in a timely manner, monitor any personal exemptions and schedule any necessary medical examinations to evaluate any limitations prior to the member becoming not current according to Air Force Instruction 36-2905, "Fitness Program."

Following a medical visit, providers can list any physical limitations on an Air Force Form 469, "Duty Limiting Conditions. When physical limitations prevent a military member from participating in fitness activities for greater than 30 days, the member will obtain an exercise prescription and determination of assessment exemptions from the exercise physiologist.

Unless the member is completely exempt from all components, including abdominal circumference, the member will continue to prepare for and be assessed on non exempt components of the assessment. A military provider must make the final disposition for any physical limitations when military members are seen by non military providers.

The profile expiration date represents the date the member is medically cleared to resume any restricted physical activities. Members will be eligible for the assessment 42 days after the expiration date of their physical limitations, as annotated on AF Form 469.

This allows time for reconditioning if exempt for more than 30 days. Airmen should seek treatment when a medical problem first arises. Waiting until one week prior to an assessment to seek treatment for an injury that first arose two months ago will set you up for failure.

Treating problems when they first arise will prevent them from becoming chronic or long-term. In addition, it provides an opportunity to process a medical profile to limit fitness activities when appropriate.

Airmen should also remember basic exercise training principles when preparing for a fitness assessment. Aerobic exercise should be accomplished three to five days per week for 20 to 60 minutes. Heart rate should be kept between 60 and 90 percent of maximum heart rate. Running is tested during the assessment, but too much high-impact activity can also lead to injury.

Take care of yourself by switching up your cardio routine. Running should be included weekly, but should also be supplemented with lower impact activities such as biking and swimming. Progressing too quickly can also lead to injury. Increase duration first, then increase intensity of aerobic activity. No more than a 10 percent increase in duration or intensity level should be accomplished each week.

In order to perform at their highest level, Airmen should take care of themselves through proper rest, hydration, and nutrition. Eight hours of sleep is a basic human need that society and Air Force culture often overlook. Your body's ability to adapt to stress decreases when you are deprived of sleep.

Hydration is another important factor. You are already two percent dehydrated by the time your thirst mechanism kicks in. When you are three percent dehydrated, your ability to run is cut by 20 percent and your ability to accomplish push-ups and crunches is cut by 35 percent. Try to keep water with you throughout the day and drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workouts.

Fueling yourself to perform at your very best is also essential. Better fueled bodies are able to train harder and burn more calories. Your body needs food every three to four hours to stay well fueled. These meals and snacks need to include a variety of foods- whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean meat. It is also important to watch your portions at meals and snacks. Have pieces of fruit ready for snacks instead of heading to the vending machine.

Be sure that you eat before your assessment. Starving yourself to lose one inch will compromise the rest of your test. Eating a carbohydrate-based snack one hour prior to your test is a great idea. Well-tolerated snacks include bagels, bananas, yogurt, cereal bars and pretzels. Muscles use carbohydrates to power them through a workout. It is recommended that you eat foods that you know will work best to fuel your body.

For further information about diet and exercise contact the HAWC at 229-257-4292.