What is Total Force Fitness?

Total Force Fitness (TFF) is a framework that enables human beings to get healthy and become high-performing Service Members. It consists of 8 interrelated domains. Together, these domains offer a holistic look at what positively or negatively impacts a Service Member’s health and performance. As a framework for military fitness, TFF suggests that supporting each domain can help Service Members to enhance their job performance and sustain their health while in the military. To achieve this, Service Members need to develop internal resources in each domain that match the demands of their military lives. And they need to have access to tools, services, and programs from the Department of Defense, their branch of Service, and their communities that support TFF. The 8 domains are:

  • Physical Fitness: Strength and agility, aerobic capacity, muscular endurance, and functional mobility
  • Social Fitness: Family and community engagement, cultural inclusiveness, peer-to-peer networks, leadership skills, and unit cohesion
  • Psychological Fitness: Proactive recovery for thriving, cognitive function, mental acuity, and self-actualization
  • Environmental Fitness: Heat, cold, altitude, noise, air quality, and whole-body vibration 
  • Nutritional Fitness: Access to high-quality foods, mission-driven macro- and micro-nutrient requirements, dietary supplement use, and healthy dietary choices
  • Financial Fitness: Debt-management skills, responsible money management, insurance and emergency planning, and investment-wealth strategies
  • Spiritual Fitness: Sense of identity and belonging, awareness of meaning and purpose, embracing Service core values, and ability to cope
  • Medical and Dental Preventive Fitness: Health assessments, screening, immunizations, and pre-habilitation, which are physical and lifestyle preparations to improve recovery time

Total Force Fitness and performance

Along with each of the 8 individual domains of TFF, the intersections of these domains are critical to understand how you can improve your health, wellness, and performance. Take sleep, for example. Sleep is an important internal resource that impacts health and performance. If you’re struggling to sleep well, and you think about the domains of TFF, you begin to see the range of reasons you could have sleep issues. Maybe you’re struggling to sleep because of anxious thoughts (psychological). Or perhaps you stay up late to spend time with your partner because your schedules don’t often otherwise align (social). Maybe you tend to drink caffeine too late in the day (nutritional), and that interferes with your ability to wind down. Or your body is sensitive to exercising late in the day (physical). Perhaps you have a hormonal imbalance (medical or dental) that makes it challenging for you to get into a rest-and-digest state. Or you can’t sleep because your bedroom is too hot or too cold or your partner snores loudly (environmental).

Not only might the individual domains of TFF play a part in your sleep cycle, but it’s also possible that the intersection of these domains can have a compounding effect on sleep quality. For example, you had to work late, so you drank some caffeine to stay up, and then when it was time to go to bed your child woke up, so that kept you awake. And after that, you had trouble winding down because you were stressing about finances, and so on. At work the next day, you might be groggy, slow to make decisions, less aware of your emotions, and less focused. Addressing only one of these concerns might not get you to a good night’s rest. And your job performance could continue to suffer. Sleep is just one example of how multiple TFF domains can intersect to impact your performance.

How Total Force Fitness helps commanding officers and Service Members

TFF also has a unique focus on helping Service Members excel at their jobs. The TFF framework is a way for commanders and Service Members to think about what helps—and what hurts—their ability to perform their mission-essential tasks. Each military occupation places a unique set of demands on Service Members. This is based on the tasks they perform as part of their occupation and assigned unit. Some occupations might require a certain number of internal resources from a specific TFF domain. For example, the tasks in some occupations are more physically demanding, such as infantry personnel who maneuver mortars and ammunition. Other jobs are more cognitive, such as intelligence or language analysts. And others have a social focus, such as those in public affairs positions who conduct interviews or human resources development personnel who recruit and train military personnel. Commanders and Service Members can use the TFF framework to think through how to prioritize services and programs to better support Service Member performance in these unique roles, while still offering opportunities to bolster wellness across all domains of TFF.

Total Force Fitness. My Mission-Readiness Inventory. Shows relationships between TFF domains

Where did Total Force Fitness come from?

Total Force Fitness was adopted by the Department of Defense in 2009 and is documented in several DoD policies. These documents support the establishment and implementation of the TFF framework across the Services.

In addition, the TFF framework and human performance optimization (HPO) have been discussed and published in various academic publications.

Most of these target the military medical professional population and provide a theoretical background on TFF and HPO, as well as ideas for executing TFF in the Services.

Total Force Fitness and you

Every branch of Service has educational resources, services, and programs available across the domains of TFF. However, it can sometimes be hard to know how they can best help you. To start, complete your personal Total Force Fitness Self-check: My Wellness and Performance Inventory to see how you’re doing across the 8 domains of TFF. This inventory can help you set goals in areas that might need the most attention, while it also highlights your strengths. The inventory prompts you to expand your “HPO network” by taking the time to think about the educational resources, services, and programs at your disposal—within your branch of Service, in your community, and from DoD at large. Use the list to help you implement your goals and build your internal resources to help you optimize your performance. Complete the inventory whenever you need to re-establish your baseline for being a healthy human being and a high-performing Service Member.

Published on: March 24, 2022

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