Physical Fitness Standards

By Means, Randy; Lowry, Kevin et al. | Law & Order, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Physical Fitness Standards

Means, Randy, Lowry, Kevin, Hoffman, Bob, Law & Order

Do your officers meet the physical requirements for your department?

Law enforcement has been described as hours of mind-numbing boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror. The physical demands of the job may be infrequent, but when an officer is in a situation that requires some physical readiness, the inability to perform can have disastrous consequences for the public, the individual officer, his work partner and the agency itself. Attaining and maintaining needed levels of fitness does not require endless hours of running and weight lifting and can be achieved in as few as three hours of framing per week. But what are the necessary levels of fitness?

There is general consensus that law enforcement officers should maintain some level of physical fitness to meet the infrequent but occasionally critical demands of their job. This is where agreement ends, and there is great controversy regarding the remaining issues. How should fitness be assessed? Who should be assessed? What are appropriate fitness standards? What type of programming, if any, is necessary to support the application of standards?

The purpose of this article is to discuss these concerns and provide guidance for validating legally defensible physical fitness standards but, first, a point on terminology: There is wide use in the law enforcement profession of the term "mandatory standard." Because a "standard" is something that one would have to meet, we find the term "mandatory standards" to be redundant. So for this article, the term "standard" implies a requirement.

Physical Tasks and Abilities

Following is a list of physical activities that are reasonably viewed as part of police work, according to dozens of scientific studies, including focused job task analyses: walking and running short and long distances, going up and down stairs, walking on uneven terrain, jumping over obstacles, vaulting over obstacles, climbing fences, dodging objects, maneuvering around obstacles, crawling under or through obstacles, dragging objects and victims, extracting victims, pushing heavy objects such as cars, light to heavy lifting and carrying, bending and reaching, using restraining devices, using hands and feet in self-defense, and shortand long-term use of force.

The data obtained from these physical fitness standard validation studies indicate that certain physical fitness areas are the underlying and predictive factors or physical abilities that determine a law enforcement officer's capabilities to perform the essential physical tasks listed. Those factors are aerobic power, anaerobic power, upper body absolute strength, muscular endurance of the upper body and abdomen, explosive leg power and agility.

The implications of these findings are straightforward. We should test for these areas to ensure applicants, academy recruits and incumbents have the physical abilities to perform the essential physical tasks of the job. We should develop jobrelated standards for performance in these areas for applicants, academy recruit graduation and incumbent officers. We should provide training programs that ensure that law enforcement recruits and incumbents have the skills and knowledge to maintain personal physical conditioning programs throughout their career.

Legal Issues

A 1999 decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Lanning v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA), clarified the requirements for legal validation of law enforcement physical fitness standards, establishing standards that are so job-related as to constitute a business necessity, the basis of legal defensibility.

Expert opinion is not enough - data must support all standards. The data must demonstrate a correlation between the fitness test and job criterion performance. However, you cannot apply a "more is better" approach. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Physical Fitness Standards


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.