While everyone should strive for a high level of fitness, some careers actually depend on it. Certain occupations require a high degree of physicality and place a premium on strength, endurance and speed, in addition to power, agility and quick reaction times. These skills are so important that some careers require extensive physical tests to ensure applicants are at peak fitness levels and can perform at a high level of physical intensity.
Since criminals rarely walk into police stations and surrender, police officers and other law enforcement personnel are constantly in pursuit of them, which requires a high level of physical strength and stamina. Although physical fitness requirements vary, the Law Enforcement Academy at New Mexico Junior College states law enforcement cadets must successfully complete a 1.5 mile run and a 300 meter run in addition to performing a series of push-ups, sit-ups and sit-and-reach flexibility exercises. According to May 2012 salary estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers earned an annual mean wage of $57,770. (Ref 1, Ref 2)
Combat operations are also physically demanding, and difficult and dangerous maneuvers against enemy forces don’t accommodate time outs for troops to rest and recharge. Therefore, the physical standards for military personnel are rigorous. For example, the Army’s minimum physical fitness requirements include the ability of men under the age of 21 to perform 42 push-ups in two minutes, 53 sit-ups in two minutes, and run two miles in less than 16 minutes. Women of the same age must perform 19 push-ups in two minutes, 53 sit-ups in two minutes, and run two miles in less than 19 minutes. The BLS reports that as of January 2011, enlisted personnel at the E-1 pay grade with less than 2 years of service earned an annual salary of $17,616, while second lieutenants at the O-1 pay grade with less than 2 years of service earned $44,308. (Ref 3, 4)
Firefighters need physical stamina and physical strength to fight fires for long periods of time and to carry heavy equipment, debris and victims. To ensure they can meet the demands of the job, the Fire Career Assistance website reports the firefighter physical fitness test requires candidates to perform such activities as carrying fire hoses filled with water over their shoulders for at least 100 yards, dragging a 185-pound mannequin a predetermined distance, using a 9-pound sledgehammer to drive a 160-pound steel beam a distance of five feet and carrying 75 pounds of equipment up five flights of exterior stairs. In 2012, firefighters earned an annual mean wage of $47,850. (Ref 5,2)
To be effective competitors, athletes need a combination of physical stamina, athleticism and good hand-eye coordination. Whether individual competitors, such as tennis and golf players, or team members who play football, basketball, baseball or soccer, peak fitness is a necessary requirement. For example, according to Top End Sports, the speed of potential football players is assessed using a 40-yard-dash test to determine speed, agility and quickness. The 5-10-5-agility test, also known as the pro-agility shuttle, measures body control and the ability to make 180-degree changes in direction. Bench press tests measure upper body strength and muscle endurance, while vertical and broad jumps measure leg power. According to May 2012 BLS data, the annual mean wage of athletes was $75,760, although some major league athletes earn millions of dollars a year. (Ref 6, 2)
- New Mexico Junior College: Law Enforcement Academy Physical Fitness Standards
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2012 National Employment and Wage Estimates
- Military.com: Army Basic Training Physical Fitness Test
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Military Careers
- Top End Sports: Fitness Testing For Football
Terri Williams began writing professionally in 1997, working with a large nonprofit organization. Her articles have appeared in various online publications including Yahoo, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report University Directory, and the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago. Williams has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.