U.S. Navy Makes Changes to Improve Sailors' Fitness


HAMPTON, VA — The Navy is changing its fitness programming in response to rising obesity rates among recruits. The service has a new Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling Series (NOFFS) program and a new protocol in place for body fat standards.

The NOFFS program was previewed last month at the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Conference in Hampton, VA.

“NOFFS is seated in injury prevention principles,” says Lisa Sexauer, fitness, sports and deployed forces commander, Navy Installations Command Fleet and Family Readiness. “Sailor durability is important to NOFFS.”

Sexauer notes that NOFFS incorporates movement patterns used in rehabilitative settings that were adapted to work in a fitness environment. The program includes training in movement preparation, multidirectional movement training, strength training, cardiovascular training, recovery training and nutritional fueling strategies.

Earlier this year, the Army updated the fitness part of its basic training program, citing the need to break in more sedentary troops gradually to prevent injuries and prepare them for more rigorous training later.

More than 9 million young adults aged 17 to 24 are too overweight to join the military, according to a Mission: Readiness report released in April, titled “Too Fat to Fight.” Mission: Readiness is a group comprised of retired military leaders. The report also found that during the past decade, the number of states with 40 percent or more of young adults considered overweight rose from one state to 39 states. The report analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In another move designed to address the obesity epidemic, sailors who exceed the Navy's body-fat standards can no longer get a waiver and receive a passing score on the semi-annual physical fitness assessment (PFA), the Navy announced last month. Previously, sailors who did not meet the body-fat standards could get a waiver on their body composition assessment (BCA) if their overall scores were excellent or better in other areas of the evaluation. Last year, about 1,595 BCA waivers were granted for active-duty sailors.

The maximum BCA is 22 percent body fat for men aged 17 to 39, and 33 percent body fat for women aged 17 to 39. Sailors aged 40 and older are given one additional percentage point.

The new requirements will take effect July 1, which marks the start of the fall 2010 PFA cycle. Those who exceed Navy BCA standards will be scored as a PFA failure.

Nearly 15,000 potential recruits fail military physical fitness entrance exams every year because they are too fat, according to the Mission: Readiness report.

NOFFS will be rolled out to the fleet in late June and will be included in the command fitness leader course by 2011, Sexauer says. It was developed so sailors could perform the exercises on existing equipment or by using bands and straps from Navy Fit Kits.

“NOFFS leverages sources we already had out there,” Sexauer says. “NOFFS equipment was based strictly on what we had already provided to ships.”

Sailors will be able to use NOFFS laminated exercise cards as guides during physical fitness training. To help Navy personnel correctly perform the 90 exercises identified in the program, officials conducted a photo shoot for the cards last September and plan to develop instructional videos to further explain the exercises.

The Navy worked with Athletes' Performance Institute (API) to develop the system and conducted focus groups with more than 750 sailors.

“We have taken a comprehensive approach working with the Navy, including looking at the strength program, warm-up and cardiovascular fitness demands of a sailor,” says Paul Cauldwell, performance specialist at API. “We also looked at the nutritional needs a sailor has both abroad and while they are deployed.”

The NOFFS program incorporates five main principles: eat clean, eat often, hydrate, recover and mindset. NOFFS also will feature a nutritional booklet for sailors that features menus and nutrition rules.

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