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Experience of Postpartum Active Duty Women in Training for the Fitness Assessment

TriService Nursing Research Program (TSNRP)
7/1/2012 – 6/30/2014
ยป U.S. Medicine Journal: New Mothers May Need Counseling, Training to Pass Postpartum Military Fitness Test


In order to facilitate and evaluate physical readiness, active duty personnel of all branches of the U.S. military are required to pass periodic fitness assessments. United States Air Force (USAF) personnel must pass a fitness assessment in order to earn satisfactory performance evaluations and be eligible for special duty assignments and promotion. Prior research suggests that fitness levels in women decrease after pregnancy and childbirth and that most women have not achieved pre-pregnancy fitness levels by 6 months postpartum. Furthermore, women can be particularly vulnerable to mental and physical health problems during the postpartum period. Therefore, some women may struggle in preparing for and passing the 6-month postpartum fitness assessment. It is unknown how training for the fitness assessment during this time of vulnerability may impact health.

The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of active duty women as they prepare for their fitness assessment after childbirth. The aim of this study was to describe and interpret the experience of active duty women who train for the Air Force fitness assessment taken at 6 months postpartum. A Heideggerian hermeneutic approach was used to interpret meaning in the experiences of these women in order to develop a better understanding about this phenomenon. Two overarching patterns emerged from this analysis: Striving to Perform under Pressure through Profound Life Transitions of Childbirth and Seeking Understanding from Others. These results provide insight into the challenges women face in regaining optimal fitness after childbirth and can be used by healthcare providers and USAF leaders to facilitate active duty postpartum women in returning to optimal fitness and well-being.

Primary Investigator

Nicole Armitage
Nicole Armitage, PhD