ARCHIVED - Canadian Forces physical fitness standards

This page has been archived on the Web

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

Backgrounder / October 20, 2011 / Project number: BG - 09.003

Strength and endurance could mean the difference between success and failure in a military operation. For this reason, Canadian Forces (CF) personnel must be more physically fit than the general Canadian population. Employment in the CF is governed by the universality of service principles, which have a legal basis in the National Defence Act. In accordance with these principles, CF personnel must maintain their physical fitness, just as they must be able to satisfy a range of other requirements, from writing military correspondence to fighting fires.

All CF personnel are required, therefore, to undergo an annual physical fitness evaluation, known as the CF EXPRES test, where they must meet a minimum physical fitness standard (MPFS). The minimum standard is different for men and women, and it differs for various age groups, as it has been determined that universal tests would not be scientifically valid. The various standards are based on the premise that both men and women, of various ages, would be able to complete five common military emergency tasks – from evacuation of a casualty at sea, to digging a trench – within a predetermined acceptable timeframe.

The Minimum Physical Fitness Standards (MPFS)

Unless given an exemption, members of the Regular Force and Primary Reserve are required to meet the MPFS every year to ensure that they are capable of performing basic military duties. Members of the Reserve sub-components (Canadian Rangers, Cadet Instructor Cadre or CIC and Supplementary Reserve) are required to meet the MPFS on an annual basis if attached to the Regular Force or Primary Reserve.

The majority (97.3%) of CF Regular Force personnel who undergo the CF EXPRES test pass the evaluation. Those who fail and those who do not complete the evaluation are considered non-deployable and may face career restrictions.

To ensure that CF physical fitness standards and programs maintain their relevance, the MPFS is evaluated on a regular basis with a focus on its scientific validity and its correspondence to common military tasks, gender and age. Recommendations for changes are implemented as required.

The Army has developed its own variation of the MPFS to reflect the physically demanding tasks typical of its operating environment. Furthermore, some CF occupations, including firefighters, Search and Rescue technicians, parachutists, divers and members of Joint Task Force 2, have developed and implemented trade-specific physical fitness standards. These different standards are more physically demanding than the MPFS, and do not distinguish between men and women.

The CF EXPRES Test

There are five common military emergency tasks that form the basis of the CF’s physical fitness evaluation:

  • entrenchment dig (digging a personal trench to protect oneself against enemy fire)
  • land evacuation (carrying one end of a stretcher bearing a casualty)
  • low/high crawl1 (moving in a defensive way in front of enemy fire)
  • sea evacuation (evacuating a casualty from a ship during a fire or other emergency)
  • sandbag carry (in the course of erecting a barricade against a flood or other natural event). 

Given the logistics of using the five common tasks as an annual evaluation for all CF personnel, the CF EXPRES test predicts a CF member’s ability to complete them through the evaluation of the following:

  • aerobic capacity – a 20-metre shuttle run (running back and forth between two points), with a step test as an alternative
  • muscular strength – a handgrip test
  • abdominal muscular endurance – sit-ups
  • upper-body muscular endurance – push-ups.

TABLE A2
Minimum Physical Fitness Standards

CF EXPRES test component

Male

Female

Age 34 and under

35 and over

Age 34 and under

35 and over

20-Metre Shuttle Run

stage 6

stage 5

stage 4

stage 3

Alternative Step Test

39

35

32

30

Handgrip

75

73

50

48

Push-ups

19

14

9

7

Sit-ups

19

17

15

12

To promote a superior level of physical fitness, the CF EXPRES program also offers an “incentive standard,” or a more challenging version of the same evaluation. CF personnel who meet the MPFS for all components of the CF EXPRES test and also attain the incentive standard earn an exemption from evaluation for one assessment period. (In other words, they can skip the test the following year.)

 

TABLE B
Incentive Standards

Incentive component

Male

Female

Age 17-19

20-29

30-39

40-49

50-59

Age 17-19

20-29

30-39

40-49

50-59

20-Metre Shuttle Run

stage 10

stage 10.5

stage 8

stage 7

stage 5.5

stage 6

stage 5.5

stage 5.0

stage 4.0

stage 3.5

Alternative Step Test

57

48

45

39

35

39

37

33

31

30

Combined Handgrip, Push-ups, Sit-ups

169

174

162

149

132

112

107

99

90

75

A note on physical fitness and pregnancy

As recognized by the medical profession, women who are pregnant should modify their type and level of physical activities. Therefore, pregnant CF personnel are subject to some duty limitations, including exemption from all evaluations. They are authorized to participate in physical training at their own pace. Depending on individual circumstances, personnel may re-enter the CF EXPRES program routine of annual evaluations as soon as 18 weeks after delivery. The “Guide to Fitness During and After Pregnancy in the CF” has been created to oversee the safe return of new mothers to fitness levels that will ensure operational readiness.

Looking forward

With a mandate to maintain morale and promote physical fitness within the CF community, the Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services (CFPFSS) Personnel Support Programs (PSP) directorate manages fitness programs and evaluations to ensure that military personnel maintain peak physical conditioning. The current focus is on maintaining long-term health and fitness, rather than merely passing a test or meeting a standard. While the CF will continue to use consistent, measurable and scientifically validated physical fitness standards appropriate to ensure that operational requirements are met by individuals, occupations, units and Environments, there is a renewed emphasis on strengthening an overall culture of good health.


1 A "low crawl" is on one's belly, a "high crawl" on hands and knees.
2 Notes on Table A
In the shuttle run, test subjects must travel 20 metres before the “stage” is called by an audio recording, with stages growing progressively faster.
The step test is an alternative to the shuttle run for test subjects having medical limitations. The test subject steps up and then down using an aerobic “step,” for three minutes.
Handgrip score is on both hands, with the score measured on a handgrip dynamometer.
Push-ups are a continuous test, with no stopping permitted.
Sit-ups are a one-minute test, with stopping permitted. 
Date modified: