Cover: Medical Fitness and Resilience

Medical Fitness and Resilience

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

Published Oct 3, 2013

by Regina A. Shih, Sarah O. Meadows, Margret T. Martin


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Research Questions

  1. What are the current medical fitness constructs and measures in the scientific literature?
  2. Is there evidence for any relationship between measures of medical fitness and the ability to cope with stressors?
  3. What initiatives would promote medical fitness, particularly among U.S. Airmen and their families?

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 examines the relationship between medical fitness and resilience, using key constructs found in the scientific literature, which address preventive care, the presence and management of injuries and chronic conditions, and facilitators and barriers to access of appropriate health care. Supporting or increasing the levels of the key measures of medical fitness identified in this report may facilitate resilience and can protect Airmen, civilian employees, and Air Force families from the negative effects of stress. The report also reviews interventions designed to promote those constructs, focusing generally on preventive care as one of the most promising ways to reduce the prevalence and burden associated with medical conditions and injuries.

Key Findings

Medical fitness is a key factor that can affect an individual's resilience and readiness to perform military duties

  • Being medically unfit may prevent an individual from adequately coping with the stress of military duty.
  • Preventive screenings can reduce the risk of and severity of cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, infectious diseases, metabolic and endocrine conditions, and obstetric and gynecologic conditions.
  • Traumatic injury to the body and brain and chronic pain can be debilitating enough to compromise resilience.
  • Supportive therapy and social support systems are part of the solution to mitigating the effects of injuries on Airmen's military readiness.


  • Facilitate increased access to quality care among vulnerable populations, defined by socioeconomic status, gender, race/ethnicity, language, geography, and among those who perceive stigma associated with seeking care.
  • Provide treatment plans for injuries that focus not only on the patient but on their families as well.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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