Cover: Environmental Fitness and Resilience

Environmental Fitness and Resilience

A Review of Relevant Constructs, Measures, and Links to Well-Being

Published Sep 29, 2015

by Regina A. Shih, Sarah O. Meadows, John Mendeloff, Kirby Bowling


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Research Questions

  1. What types of environmental stressors contribute to poor well-being in service members?
  2. What kinds of measures can mitigate environmental stressors?

This report is one of a series designed to support Air Force leaders in promoting resilience among its Airmen, civilian employees, and Air Force family members. It identifies key environmental stressors experienced by Airmen and examines key resilience factors in the domain of environmental fitness, focusing specifically on prevention and protective measures. The report also reviews interventions that have been shown to improve environmental fitness, focusing primarily on the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Key Findings

Environmental fitness contributes to an individual's readiness, or ability to perform military duties.

  • Being environmentally unfit may prevent an individual from adequately coping with environmental stressors associated with military duty.
  • Existing research on resilience factors in the environmental domain is much less well established and conclusive than that for many other Total Force Fitness domains.
  • Five types of environmental stressors considered include temperature (heat or cold), noise, altitude, chemicals, and workplace hazards.
  • Environmental fitness entails the prevention of exposure to and the protection against environmental stressors and hazards.


  • The Air Force should determine which environmental stressors can be measured and which would be the most appropriate and economical metrics to use.
  • There should be a focus on predictors of PPE use that cut across all types of equipment and jobs to prevent exposures of all types, not just PPE for specific occupations and industries.
  • Leadership should promote a safety culture.
  • The Air Force should inspect and review compliance more frequently to ensure compliance.
  • Safety training of vulnerable groups, such as new Airmen or those taking on new jobs, must be undertaken.
  • Personal protective equipment, acclimatization and tolerance, and ergonomics may all be employed to mitigate potentially negative effects of environmental stressors on health and well-being.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the Air Force offices of Airman and Family Services (AF/A1S), the Surgeon General (AF/SG), and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Force Management Integration (SAF/MRM) and conducted within the Manpower, Personnel, and Training Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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