The Personal Fitness Merit Badge: Your Ultimate Guide in 2020


Taking charge of your personal fitness is one of the most important decisions you can make in life. The Eagle-required Personal Fitness merit badge will teach you the knowledge and habits necessary to stay physically fit and healthy as you grow older.

In this guide, I’ll be walking you through the answers to each of the Personal Fitness knowledge requirements so that you can complete your merit badge worksheet and earn this Eagle-required badge. Take the time to fully understand the material. Later, you’ll be using the information you’ve learned to form your own 12-week fitness plan to complete requirements 6-8.

Before we get started, if you have other Eagle-required merit badges to earn, I’d recommend checking out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I’m certain this resource will be helpful to scouts on their road to Eagle!

Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!

It’s time to get started. Thoroughly read through each requirement of the Personal Fitness merit badge. Then, I’ll help you to answer each question and understand the different components needed to live a healthy life!

(Click here to visit part 2 of my guide to the Personal Fitness merit badge!)

What Are The Personal Fitness Merit Badge Requirements?

  1. Do the following: Before completing requirements 2 through 9, have your health-care practitioner give you a physical examination, using the Scout medical examination form. Explain the following:
    • 1a I. Why physical exams are important
      1a II. Why preventive habits (such as exercising regularly) are important in maintaining good health, and how the use of tobacco products, alcohol, and other harmful substances can negatively affect our personal fitness
      1a III. Diseases that can be prevented and how
      1a IV. The seven warning signs of cancer
      1a V. The youth risk factors that affect cardiovascular health in adulthood.
    • 1b. Have a dental examination. Get a statement saying that your teeth have been checked and cared for. Tell how to care for your teeth.
  2. Explain to your merit badge counselor verbally or in writing what personal fitness means to you, including:
    • 2a. Reasons for being mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually fit
      2b. What it means to be mentally healthy
      2c. What it means to be physically healthy
      2d. What it means to be socially healthy
  3. With your counselor, answer and discuss the following questions:
    • 3a. Are you living in such a way that your risk of preventable diseases is minimized?
      3b. Are you immunized and vaccinated according to the advice of your healthcare provider and the direction of your parent(s)/guardian(s)?
      3c. Are you free from habits relating to poor nutrition and the use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and other practices that could be harmful to your health?
      3d. What are the advantages to getting a full night’s sleep?
      3e. Define a nutritious, balanced diet and why it is important.
      3f. Do you participate in a regular exercise program or recreational activities?
      3g. What are you doing to demonstrate your duty to God?
      3h. Do you spend quality time with your family and friends in social and recreational activities?
      3i. Do you support family activities and efforts to maintain a good home life?
  4. Explain the following about physical fitness:
    • 4a. The areas of physical fitness
      4b. Your weakest and strongest area of physical fitness
      4c. The need to have a balance in the four areas of physical fitness
      4d. How a program like ScoutStrong can lead to lifelong healthful habits
      4e. How the areas of personal fitness relate to the Scout Law and Scout Oath
  5. Explain the following:
    • 5a. The importance of good nutrition
      5b. What good nutrition means to you
      5c. How good nutrition is related to the other components of personal fitness
      5d. How to maintain a healthy weight
  6. Before doing requirements 7 and 8, do the following:
    • 6a. Complete the aerobic fitness, flexibility, and muscular strength tests, as described in the Personal Fitness merit badge pamphlet. Record your results and identify those areas where you feel you need to improve.
      6b. Keep track of what you eat and drink for three days. Identify three healthy eating goals you want to work on.
  7. Outline a comprehensive 12-week physical fitness program using the results of your fitness tests. Be sure your program incorporates the endurance, intensity, and warm-up guidelines discussed in the Personal Fitness merit badge pamphlet. Before beginning your exercises, have the program approved by your counselor and parents.
  8. Complete the physical fitness program you outlined in requirement 7. Keep a log of your fitness program activity (how long you exercised; how far you ran, swam, or biked; how many exercise repetitions you completed; your exercise heart rate; etc.). Keep a log of your weekly healthy eating goals. Repeat the aerobic fitness, muscular strength, and flexibility tests every four weeks and record your results. After the 12th week, repeat all of the required activities in each of the three test categories, record your results, and show improvement in each one. Discuss how well you met your healthy eating goals over these 12 weeks. Discuss the meaning and benefit of your experience, and describe your long-term plans regarding your personal fitness.
  9. Find out about three career opportunities in personal fitness. Pick one and find out the education, training, and experience required for this profession. Discuss what you learned with your counselor, and explain why this profession might interest you.

1) Do the following: Before completing requirements 2 through 9, have your health-care practitioner give you a physical examination, using the Scout medical examination form. Explain the following:

Click here to download your own copy of the Scout medical examination form. Then, have your health-care practitioner complete each of the questions at your next appointment.

This form is to ensure that you have no prior conditions that could make completing this merit badge dangerous for your health. In the meantime, complete the first section. Here, we’ll be talking about why physical exams are important, as well as some habits that you can adopt for better health.


Before we jump into the requirements, I’d like to briefly review why physical fitness is so important. Watch the short video (3:09) below to learn about the many benefits of exercise. This is the big ‘why‘ behind personal fitness, and will help you tremendously in earning this badge! 🙂

1a I) Why physical exams are important

Physical examinations are used to measure your overall health from year to year. These exams are important for 3 main reasons:

  1. Doctors screen for any diseases or abnormalities that could lead to health problems in the future.
  2. You’re able to receive necessary immunizations and vaccinations to lower your chances of getting sick.
  3. Your healthcare provider will ensure your diet and exercise routine will keep you healthy in the coming year.

The best way to stay healthy is to avoid getting sick in the first place! Taking an annual physical exam will help doctors to identify and treat health problems before they can worsen. This method of healthcare is called preventive care.

1a II) Why preventive habits (such as exercising regularly) are important in maintaining good health, and how the use of tobacco products, alcohol, and other harmful substances can negatively affect our personal fitness

Preventative habits such as regular exercise and a healthy diet will keep your body in peak condition. With a healthy body, it’ll be easier for you to avoid getting sick. If you do become sick, preventative habits will also help you to recover more quickly. Some preventative habits include:

  • Regular cardiovascular exercise.
  • Maintaining a healthy and well-balanced diet according to MyPlate guidelines (See my cooking merit badge guide here).
  • Keeping your weight at a healthy level to reduce strains and stress.
  • Regularly getting 7+ hours of uninterrupted sleep per night (Some people need more, others less).
  • Brushing your teeth 2x per day and maintaining good personal hygiene.

Preventive habits help to reduce your risk of health problems later on in life.

To maintain good health, you’ll also need to avoid harmful habits. Harmful habits can counteract the benefits of your preventative habits, and negatively affect your personal fitness. Here are some common harmful habits, and their impact on your health:

  • Tobacco Use: Smoking or chewing tobacco products can damage your teeth and gums. Inhaling any sort of smoke will damage your lungs over time and increase your risks of lung cancer or respiratory disease. Habitual smoking will make it more difficult to breathe and regularly exercise.
  • Alcohol Use: Overconsumption of alcohol will damage your liver and cause problems with your heart. Frequent drinking is connected to rapid weight gain and obesity. Long term abuse of alcohol can even lead to cancer, damaged organs, and mental decline.
  • Obesity: People considered obese are at a higher risk for many serious health conditions such as cancer, stroke, and heart disease. It’s much more difficult to lose weight once obese, so eat a balanced diet and avoid unhealthy foods.
1a III) Diseases that can be prevented and how

Most diseases cannot be entirely prevented. However, you can greatly reduce your risk of disease by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Here are 4 keys to keep in mind:

  1. Body: Stay at your recommended weight and exercise often.
  2. Diet: Regularly eat a balanced and nutritious diet
  3. Habits: Avoid drugs, tobacco or alcohol
  4. Mental Health: Get enough sleep and keep your stress levels low

By following these four points throughout your life, you’ll lower your odds of contracting the most serious diseases which include: cancer, type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or heart disease.

1a IV) The seven warning signs of cancer

Cancers can occur on anyone at any age but are most commonly found on older individuals and those with a family history of the disease. Frequent drug or alcohol use, as well as obesity, can also increase one’s likelihood of developing cancers.

The seven warning signs of cancer are:

  1. New lumps found anywhere on your body.
  2. Unusual bleeding or discharge.
  3. Sores that don’t heal or are growing.
  4. Changes in bowel habits. Blood in urine or stool.
  5. Coughing that will not go away after 1 month.
  6. Changes in mole patterns or large moles.
  7. Difficulty swallowing or a feeling of pressure in the chest or throat.

If you experience any of these signs, tell your parents. If this problem persists for more than two weeks, go to a doctor. Although you likely don’t have cancer, many of these warning signs are symptoms of other, more mild, health problems.

1a V) The youth risk factors that affect cardiovascular health in adulthood.

Some of the most significant youth risk factors that affect cardiovascular health in adulthood include:

  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • Sleep
  • Mental health
  • Drug use
  • Genetics
  • Vaccination
  • Medical/dental care

Later on in this guide, we’ll be taking a deeper look into how you can use your knowledge of these risk factors to make decisions that improve your personal fitness. By maintaining healthy habits and making sure that each of these elements are taken into account, you’ll live a healthy and fulfilling life

1b) Have a dental examination. Get a statement saying that your teeth have been checked and cared for. Tell how to care for your teeth.

You should get a dental examination 1 to 2 times per year. During these appointments, your dentist will ensure that your teeth are healthy and being cared for. They’ll also look for any future dental issues that can be treated or prevented. 

How to care for your teeth: When caring for your teeth on a daily basis, you should first floss between each tooth. Afterward, brush lightly, using toothpaste, for at least two minutes. Take the time to thoroughly clean your teeth, making sure that all crevices are free of food and plaque. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day, but avoid brushing within 30 minutes after eating a meal, as this could damage your tooth’s enamel.

Just a few minutes of taking care of your teeth each day will help you to maintain good dental hygiene for life.

2) Explain to your merit badge counselor verbally or in writing what personal fitness means to you, including:

2a) Reasons for being mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually fit

I’ll briefly explain my answers to these questions as an example. However, take the time to come up with your own response. This requirement asks what each of these personal fitness elements mean to you.

Mental, physical, social, and spiritual fitness is the foundation of a healthy and fulfilling life. Much of the world’s unhappiness is caused by people’s inability to maintain one of these four areas. 

  • Without physical fitness: Your body will be weak and prone to illness or pain.
  • Without mental fitness: You’ll have a difficult time creating the life you desire, and be more easily manipulated.
  • Without social fitness: You’ll miss out on fulfilling friendships, interpersonal connection, and love.
  • Without spiritual fitness: You won’t be able to contribute to others, find purpose, and build your sense of self-worth.
2b) What it means to be mentally healthy

To be mentally healthy, you should constantly be trying to understand the world around you. Learn all that you can and use that knowledge for good. Don’t immediately believe everything you hear. Stay curious, investigate, and seek the truth above all else.

I also believe that being mentally healthy means looking on the bright side. Intentionally choose what information you consume. Build a positive outlook. Believe in yourself and have confidence that the more you learn, the more you’ll be able to make a difference.

2c) What it means to be physically healthy

You don’t need to bench press 400 pounds and run a marathon each week to be physically healthy. To me, physical health means being able to enjoy exercise. If you’re hiking, physical health means enjoying the journey without being held back by your body’s limitations.

If you’re severely overweight or are physically unhealthy, most of the time your body will be in pain. Being physically healthy will let you see past your body’s limitations. It’ll help you to enjoy the many opportunities this world has in store!

2d) What it means to be socially healthy

Being socially healthy means being comfortable relating to others. Because some people enjoy being alone while others love being around groups, social health may be different from person-to-person. That’s why, to me, being socially healthy means being able to handle feelings of loneliness you may experience.

If you’re only able to connect to one or two people but build a fulfilling relationship with them, you’re socially healthy. If you have 500 friends but are unable to open up to any of them, you’re not socially healthy. Be open and don’t be afraid of being yourself. That’s the only way to be socially healthy and happy in the long run.

3)With your counselor, answer and discuss the following questions:

3a) Are you living in such a way that your risk of preventable diseases is minimized?
3b) Are you immunized and vaccinated according to the advice of your healthcare provider and the direction of your parent(s)/guardian(s)?
3c) Are you free from habits relating to poor nutrition and the use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and other practices that could be harmful to your health?

Answers for 3d) and 3e) below!

3f) Do you participate in a regular exercise program or recreational activities?
3g) What are you doing to demonstrate your duty to God?
3h) Do you spend quality time with your family and friends in social and recreational activities?
3i) Do you support family activities and efforts to maintain a good home life?

Examine your own habits. Ask yourself the following questions and see how your lifestyle stacks up. Then, if your answers aren’t what you’d like them to be, decide on what you’ll change to live a more healthy life!

3d) What are the advantages to getting a full night’s sleep?

Getting a full night’s sleep will have more benefits than just making you feel well-rested. Studies have shown that a healthy sleep schedule can reduce risks of heart disease, improve brain activity, and lower stress.

Without a full night’s sleep, people are more prone to forgetfulness, mistakes, and irritability. Sleep can help your body to recover, and help you to better recall the information you’ve learned that day. Sleep is incredibly important, so always try to at least sleep the recommended 7-8 hours.

3e) Define a nutritious, balanced diet and why it is important.

I’d recommend checking out requirement 2 of my guide to the cooking merit badge. This section on nutrition will teach you the right foods to eat in order to have a balanced diet based on your age and size. Plus, Cooking is an Eagle-required badge that’ll teach you the importance of each food group, as well as how to understand food labels.

4) Explain the following about physical fitness:

4a) The areas of physical fitness

There are five main areas of physical fitness :

  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness: This can also be called cardiovascular fitness, but relates to the fitness of your heart and lungs. To improve cardiorespiratory fitness, engage in activities that get your heart pumping and blood flowing.

    Activities like running, jumping rope, or swimming will help to improve your cardiorespiratory fitness. This, in turn, will lead to lower blood pressure, reduced stress, increased energy, and improved sleep. 

  • Muscular Strength: Muscular strength is your body‘s ability to exert a maximal force using your muscles. The most common way of testing muscular strength is by lifting weights.

    A common weightlifting routine is to work out a muscle group by performing 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions. Through progressive overload, over time, your muscles will become stronger.

  • Muscular Endurance: Muscular endurance is your body‘s ability to exert force from your muscles over a period of time. To train muscular endurance, most athletes lift lighter weights for a greater number of repetitions — typically 12-16. Unlike training muscular strength, muscular endurance work allows for little rest between each exercise.

  • Flexibility: Flexibility is your body‘s ability to go through its full range of motion. By stretching and working to loosen your joints, you’ll improve your flexibility and reduce risks of injury. Classes like Yoga or Pilates can help you improve your flexibility over time. Remaining flexible as you age will help you to avoid soreness and cramps.

  • Body Composition: Your body is mainly made up of bones, muscle, and fat. Body composition will help you to understand what percentage of your overall weight is from fat.

    High body fat percentages are linked to numerous health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. To improve your body’s composition, eat a healthy diet. Reduce your consumption of fats and sugars, and try to drink more water.
4b) Your weakest and strongest area of physical fitness

You should come back to 4b) after starting requirement 6 and taking your physical examination. Find an area of personal fitness that you were better than expected, as well as an area that you were lacking in.

4c) The need to have a balance in the four areas of physical fitness

The four areas of physical fitness are: 1) cardiorespiratory endurance, 2) muscular strength/endurance, 3) flexibility, and 4) body composition. Being balanced in these areas will help you to be prepared for a wide variety of physical challenges. 

A scout lacking in any one of these four areas will have difficulty supporting their troop. In survival situations you should have endurance (cardiorespiratory fitness), power (muscular strength/endurance), be in good overall health (body composition), and able to react quickly while staying limber (flexibility).

4d) How a program like ScoutStrong can lead to lifelong healthful habits

ScoutStrong is a BSA program aimed at helping scouts become physically fit. You can earn awards in this program by meeting daily activity goals, committing to healthy dietary practices, or taking certifications in responsible medicine use. Learning these skills at an early age will help to build lifelong habits of health.

4e) How the areas of personal fitness relate to the Scout Law and Scout Oath

According to the Scout Oath, to do your duty to God and your country you’ll need to be physically capable. By building a strong body, you’ll be able to help others and give back to your community. If an emergency were ever to occur, being physically fit will also help you to respond quickly and effectively.

Personal fitness will also help you to carry out each of the points of the Scout Law. Plus, having a strong body will make you more confident and willing to stand up for the right values! With the knowledge you’re learning in this merit badge, you’re on the right path!

Click here to visit part 2 of my guide to the Personal Fitness merit badge!

Conclusion

Awesome job reading this far. You’re halfway done with earning your Personal Fitness merit badge! Now it’s time to check out part 2 of my guide, which will help you to answer requirements 5-9 of this Eagle-required badge. 🙂

(PS: This is a 2-parter because breaking up 5000+ word articles helps the pages to load faster!)

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content for this website because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making this world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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