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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 135-97
March 27, 1997

DOD ANNOUNCES OPERATION BE FIT

The Defense Department is initiating a new program to improve the physical fitness of its people. Fred Pang, assistant secretary of defense for Force Management Policy, announced Operation Be Fit to serve not only as a blueprint to foster a renewed emphasis on the physical fitness of the entire military community, but to enable the Department of Defense to set the standard and assume national leadership in comprehensive physical fitness programs and activities.

"Operation Be Fit" will focus on improving and expanding programs in fitness and sports as well as in recreation activities that involve physical activity. DoD also will take initiatives and actions to encourage all members of the military community to participate in the programs. This initiative will build on the significant efforts already ongoing within each of the Services by combining expertise within the Department, and by adding DoD emphasis and endorsement to these endeavors.

Pang praised the initiative. Maintaining the peace through military training and preparedness -- and fighting a war if necessary -- calls for men and women who are extremely fit. What we spend in fitness, sports and recreation programs that leads to physical fitness is an investment -- its the human side of force modernization. When the military community participation in regular physical activity increases, we free up health care dollars that can be used for other critical needs. We also get the significant benefit of having a total workforce that does the job better than ever before.

In addition to military readiness, Secretary Pang's memorandum cites the findings of the July 1996 US Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health as an important reason to undertake this physical fitness. The Surgeon General's Report concludes that regular physical activity is associated with a decreased incidence of disease, substantially improved overall physical and mental health, and an improved quality of life.

Last December the Department hosted a major fitness forum that included senior representatives from the Military Departments and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, and other interested agencies. The forum put the final endorsement on the DoD initiative and set the course for work to develop DoD standards for fitness activities, and plan for a campaign to encourage increased use of military fitness, sports and recreation activities.

The Executive Director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Sandra Perlmutter, commended the DoD announcement. The Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health is a landmark document in our nation's understanding of a public health threat, much as the 1964 Surgeon General's report on the hazards of smoking turned out to be. Our goal is to encourage/help all Americans to become more physically active so they can receive the many very real benefits associated with an active lifestyle. I commend the Department of Defense for being the first federal agency to embrace the findings in the report and develop a specific action plan to increase physical activity among its workforce and their families. We hope that other government organizations will follow suit. The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports looks forward to working with the Department of Defense on implementation of this plan.

The Department expects to begin rolling out the completed standards and actions associated with this initiative this fall.