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NEWS | Oct. 2, 2020

Holistic health added to Army fitness doctrine

By Thomas Brading Army News Service

The ink has dried on the Army’s updated physical fitness doctrine, which now includes a portion on holistic health that aims to prevent injuries, increase Soldier lethality, and be an essential component of individual readiness.

Holistic Health and Fitness, or H2F, was published Oct. 1 into Army Field Manual 7-22, which covers the force’s doctrine on physical readiness training, said Maj. Gen. Lonnie G. Hibbard, commander of the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training.

As H2F takes its place in Army doctrine, Hibbard hopes to hit the ground running into fiscal year 2021, especially as the Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT, is set to become the fitness test of record next month.

“This will be the supporting blocks of the ACFT,” he said, adding that’s why H2F is rolling out at the same time as the new six-event ACFT.

The updated doctrine is curtailed to “the individual Soldier,” he said, and includes postpartum training for the first time. “We’ve made leaps and strides [with H2F], by not looking at Soldiers as carbon copies of one another, but as individuals. That’s the point of Health and Holistic Fitness.”

Comprehensive approach to training, readiness

H2F is an all-inclusive initiative designed to integrate personnel, equipment, facilities, programming, and education to produce physically and mentally tough Soldiers ready to defeat enemies in future warfare, Hibbard said.

“[H2F] is the framework to encompass all aspects of human performance to include physical, sleep, nutritional, spiritual, and mental fitness,” he said. This “optimizes Soldier’s readiness, reduces injury rates, improves rehabilitation after injury, and increases the overall effectiveness of the total Army.”

The initiative comes as part of the Army’s cultural shift in the way commanders train, develop, and care for its most important weapon system -- their Soldiers, he said. The single governance structure of H2F consolidates other Army health campaigns -- like Performance Triad, Go for Green, Army Wellness Centers, and others -- into one.

Commanders will have subject matter experts on their staff that advise them on implementing doctrine that supports the H2F system. These H2F Performance Teams, consisting of physical therapists, registered dietitians, occupational therapists, athletic trainers certified, cognitive performance experts, and strength and conditioning coaches, will support brigade-sized elements, providing far-forward medical care and performance expertise.

How will this affect Soldiers? The key, Hibbard said, is to prevent injuries and increase lethality.

As of February 2019, more than 56,000 Soldiers were non-deployable -- comparable to more than 13 brigade combat teams. Also, more than 21,000 Soldiers were on a temporary profile, and more than 15,000 were placed on a permanent profile. In 2018, more than half of all Soldiers were injured at some point, and 71% of those injuries were lower extremity micro-traumatic musculoskeletal “overuse” injuries.

The 2018 report also reported more than 12 percent of Soldiers had some form of sleep disorder and 17 percent of active-duty Soldiers were obese, both of which can lead to an injury.

In other words, how Soldiers trained, in and out of the gym, was yielding counterproductive results. This health care burden wasn’t just impacting operational readiness, but the musculoskeletal injuries racked up half a billion dollars of patient care costs among active-duty Soldiers.

Those readiness issues were just a few reasons why H2F was developed, Hibbard said, and will “increase the overall effectiveness of the total Army.”

Army Combat Fitness Test

The holistic health push comes as the Army overhauls its fitness assessment testing. The changes couple together, with H2F providing the help Soldiers need to achieve the changes needed with the Army’s total health and wellness, Hibbard said.

In October, the ACFT officially replaces the decades-old Army Physical Fitness Test. The ACFT was developed to reduce injuries and best prepare Soldiers for the modern demands of warfighting, Hibbard said.

The six-event, gender- and age-neutral ACFT will be the largest overhaul is assessing a Soldier’s physical fitness in 40 years. Unlike the outdated three-event physical fitness standards, the ACFT won’t be “one size fits all,” Hibbard said. “Your strengths and my strengths are going to be different.”

That’s where the H2F program comes in, he said. It’s an integrated health approach to physical training, tailor-made for “the individual Soldier” at all levels of their career.

Over the past decade, recruits have done less physical activity before enlisting than before, Hibbard said. This is based on several reasons, such as physical education classes being cut from public school education requirements.

“Unless your family or you play a sport, you may not do anything,” he said. “H2F is going to empower and equip Soldiers to take charge of their health and fitness.”

Soldier Performance Readiness Centers

Moving forward, H2F training facilities, known as Soldier Performance Readiness Centers, or SPRCs, will serve as unit-owned 40,000 square-foot fitness hubs to deliver integrated health experiences to the individual Soldier, Hibbard said. The hubs will include a standardized obstacle course, physical fitness testing field, sheltered strength training racks, containerized strength equipment, and physical readiness training fields with climbing pods.

The modernized gyms will begin to be built in fiscal year 2023. Until then, performance teams will use existing facilities. Once construction begins, it will take between six-to-18 months to complete, he said.

New equipment is expected to come sooner, or has already been delivered, to Army gyms across the force.

“We've already got testing equipment for the ACFT [delivered to] most brigades,” Hibbard said. “Especially at [U.S. Army Forces Command]” at a delivery rate of “18 brigades a year after that, give or take.”

National Guard and Army Reserve

Leaders at CIMT, which falls under U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, understand these changes won’t necessarily impact every Soldier in the Total Army at the same time.

“When you start looking at Army National Guard or Army Reserve, it gets a little bit more complicated,” Hibbard said. “Teams are looking to resource H2F by implementing creative solutions, including partnerships, technology applications, mobile platforms, and leveraging other subject matter experts in their states or regions.”

Both components are also implementing pilot programs to assess the functionality in their units. The National Guard has 14 programs in various states, and the Reserve will begin their pilot program in the third quarter of 2021. Pilot programs will include fitness apps, virtual education, purchase of commercial off-the-shelf training equipment, partnerships with academia, industry, and state-run programs.

Army leaders continue to research how the H2F system can best align with their specific requirements, Hibbard said.

H2F may be here, but assessing information and data is far from over, he said.

“We will continue to evolve H2F, especially with the Guard and Reserve developing their programs,” he said. “Soldiers are the ‘why’ behind all of this. We are asking a lot from them physically, and as we change the culture of fitness in the Army,” H2F is here to help them succeed.