The Army has officially added holistic health to its updated physical fitness doctrine. The doctrine aims to prevent injuries, increase soldiers’ lethality and be an essential component of individual readiness.

Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) was introduced on October 1 in the Army Field Manual 7-22. The manual 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 the fiscal year 2021, especially as the Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT, is set to become the fitness test record.

“[Holistic Health and Fitness] will be the supporting blocks of the ACFT,” Hibbard said. Further, he added that that’s why H2F is rolling out at the same time as the new six-event ACFT.

General James McConville said that “Investing in health and benefits our soldiers and their families. It also ensures the sustainment of an agile and adaptive Army, ready to provide the Nation with a professional, lethal, and decisive force that will win against any adversary.”

A New Comprehensive Approach to Training and Readiness

Holistic Health and Fitness is an all-inclusive initiative designed to integrate personnel, equipment, facilities, programming, and education. Its purpose is to produce physically and mentally brutal soldiers ready to defeat enemies in future warfare, Hibbard said.

“[Holistic Health and Fitness] is the framework to encompass all aspects of human performance to include physical, sleep, nutritional, spiritual, and mental fitness,” he said. This “optimizes soldiers’ 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 their soldiers. After all, the soldiers are a commander’s most crucial weapon system.

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

How Will Holistic Health and Fitness Affect Soldiers?

U.S. soldiers with Able Company, 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 4-25, practice martial arts and take turns lifting weights during a workout in the gym on Combat Outpost Chamkani, Paktia province, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2012. (Photo by Sgt. Kimberly Trumbull/ DVIDS)

The key, Hibbard said, is to prevent injuries and increase lethality.

As of February 2019, more than 56,000 soldiers were non-deployable. This number is comparable to more than 13 brigade combat teams. 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. Seventy-one percent of those injuries were lower extremity micro-traumatic musculoskeletal “overuse” injuries.

Additionally, according to the 2018 report, more than 12 percent of soldiers had some form of sleep disorder. Further, 17 percent of active-duty soldiers were obese. Both sleep disorders and obesity can lead to injury.

In other words, the way soldiers trained, both in and out of the gym, was counterproductive.

This healthcare burden isn’t just impacting operational readiness. Rather, musculoskeletal injuries rack up half a billion dollars of patient care costs among active-duty soldiers.

Yet, addressing readiness issues was just one reason why Holistic Health and Fitness was developed.

Army rolls out alternative fitness test, but scores will still not count

Read Next: Army rolls out alternative fitness test, but scores will still not count

Hibbard said that it will “increase the overall effectiveness of the total [sic] Army.”

Modernized Army Gyms

Moving forward, H2F training facilities, known as Soldier Performance Readiness Centers, or SPRCs, will serve as unit-owned 40,000 square-foot fitness hubs. They will 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 the fiscal year 2023. Until then, performance teams will use existing facilities. Construction will take between six to 18 months.

The new equipment will be coming soon or has already been delivered to Army gyms Army-wide.

“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.”

“We will continue to evolve H2F, especially with the Guard and Reserve developing their programs,” he added.

“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.