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Maintaining optimal physical preparedness: Key to reducing PT related injuries

Whether it be waiting to start a cardiorespiratory training regimen, transitioning to a strict low-caloric diet, or initiating an abrupt/drastic life style change, many Airmen have a tendency to go into “preparation mode” right before a PT test.

Whether it be waiting to start a cardiorespiratory training regimen, transitioning to a strict low-caloric diet, or initiating an abrupt/drastic life style change, many Airmen have a tendency to go into “preparation mode” right before a PT test.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --

I’m sure everyone has heard a peer or coworker say, “I have my PT [physical training] test in a couple of months, so I’d better start getting ready.”  This mentality has unfortunately become a commonality amongst many Airmen.  Whether it be waiting to start a cardiorespiratory training regimen, transitioning to a strict low-caloric diet, or initiating an abrupt/drastic life style change, many Airmen have a tendency to go into “preparation mode” right before a PT test. 

While this may seem like a decent idea on the surface, it’s actually the direct opposite, and consequently increases the potential for serious injury and/or physiological illness.  The good news, however, is that potential PT injuries and illnesses can be easily prevented by maintaining an optimal level of general physical preparedness throughout the year.

So what exactly is general physical preparedness?  In laymen’s terms, it simply translates to maintaining a functionally high level of fitness at all times (i.e. optimum physical competency in the areas of endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, etc.).

In doing so, the risk of injury to the musculoskeletal and cardiorespiratory systems is greatly reduced.  Think of this in terms of maintaining your car…  Would you ever pack up your car and decide to drive cross country without first ensuring proper maintenance is completed?  I certainly wouldn’t, and I’m guessing neither would you. 

The human body is absolutely no different; it requires on-going maintenance (and proper fuel) in order to correctly and efficiently perform.  That being said, when the human body is physically neglected and then suddenly forced to physically perform, the risk of injury goes up exponentially.  Not only does the threat of strains, sprains, and joint impingements to the musculoskeletal system significantly increase, but more dangerously, so does the risk of serious physiological illnesses such as dehydration, hypernatremia, heat stroke, and even rhabdomyolysis. 

While injuries may never be able to be completely eliminated (keep in mind there’s always some risk involved with exercise, sport, and general physical activity), encompassing an effectual exercise routine on a continuing basis in an effort to heighten/maintain general physical preparedness, greatly reduces the risk of injury.  

The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic-based activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity (or a combination of the both).  Coupling a regular cardiorespiratory exercise regimen with resistance type training (i.e. weightlifting and/or calisthenics aka body weight exercises) two to three days per week further allows the body to progressively adapt, thus improving a person’s overall general physical preparedness and ultimately lowering the risk of injury or illness come PT test time. 

Bottom line… continuous exercise throughout the year in an effort to maintain a high level of general fitness is unarguably a more effective approach than going into “preparation mode” prior to your next Air Force PT test.  In doing so, you’re most certainly improving the odds of avoiding serious injuries and/or physiological illnesses.