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New Boy Scout requirements put more emphasis on physical fitness

It’s right there in the Scout Oath: “… to keep myself physically strong … ”

Starting next year, Boy Scouts will be required to do just that if they want to advance through Scouting’s ranks.

New Boy Scout requirements that take effect on Jan. 1, 2016, put a greater emphasis on Scouts being physically active. There are new requirements at Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class that require Scouts to do what they love to do: move around a lot. The Personal Fitness merit badge, meanwhile, remains a requirement to earn the Eagle Scout rank.

Why the new focus on physical activity? Because childhood obesity is a real thing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of adolescents age 12 to 19 (read: Boy Scout age) who were obese increased from 5 percent in 1980 to nearly 21 percent in 2012. This is the BSA doing its part.

To earn Tenderfoot in 2016 and beyond, Scouts must show improvement in their time walking or running one mile. That’s up from one-quarter mile in the previous requirements. Scouts don’t need to be Roger Bannister to check this one off. They need only show improvement of any degree in their one-mile time after 30 days; “improvement” could be a single second.

Pullups, an especially tough requirement for many Scouts, even those in great physical shape, have been dropped from the requirements altogether. (Sam Bennett, an exciting young player for the NHL’s Calgary Flames, famously couldn’t do a single pull-up in the NHL draft combine.) See more about this change below.

To earn both the Second Class and First Class ranks in 2016 and beyond, Scouts will be required to be physically active at least 30 minutes a day for five days a week. They need to do that for four weeks and keep track of their activities.

Take a look at the full requirements below. You’ll notice that most Scouts in active troops will have no trouble with this new way of keeping themselves physically strong in 2016 and beyond.

This is the latest in a series of posts where I take an in-depth look at changes coming to Boy Scouting next year.

I’ve already blogged about the number of camping nights and service hours increasing, Scout becoming its own rank and Boy Scouts telling about their duty to God at each rank. You can read more about changes to Boy Scouting (and, for that matter, Cub Scouting and Venturing, on the Program Updates page.)

Tenderfoot: New fitness requirements (effective Jan. 1, 2016)

6a. Record your best in the following tests:

  • Pushups ________ (Record the number done correctly in 60 seconds.)
  • Situps or curl-ups ________ (Record the number done correctly in 60 seconds.)
  • Back-saver sit-and-reach (Record the distance stretched.)
  • 1-mile walk/run _____________ (Record the time.)

6b. Develop and describe a plan for improvement in each of the activities listed in Tenderfoot requirement 6a. Keep track of your activity for at least 30 days.

6c. Show improvement (of any degree) in each activity listed in Tenderfoot requirement 6a after practicing for 30 days.

  • Pushups ________ (Record the number done correctly in 60 seconds.)
  • Situps or curl-ups ________ (Record the number done correctly in 60 seconds.)
  • Back-saver sit-and-reach (Record the distance stretched.)
  • 1-mile walk/run _____________ (Record the time.)

Tenderfoot: Old fitness requirements

Show improvement in the activities listed in requirement 10a after practicing for 30 days.

  • Pushups ________
  • Pullups ________
  • Situps ________
  • Standing long jump (______ ft. ______ in.)
  • 1⁄4-mile walk/run _____________

Record your best in the following tests:

  • Pushups ________
  • Pullups ________
  • Situps ________
  • Standing long jump (______ ft. ______ in.)
  • 1⁄4-mile walk/run _____________

Second Class: New fitness requirements (effective Jan. 1, 2016)

Note: Completely new requirement, so there isn’t a comparable “old” requirement.

7a. After completing Tenderfoot requirement 6c, be physically active at least 30 minutes each day for five days a week for four weeks. Keep track of your activities.

7b. Share your challenges and successes in completing Second Class requirement 7a. Set a goal for continuing to include physical activity as part of your daily life
and develop a plan for doing so.

First Class: New fitness requirements (effective Jan. 1, 2016)

Note: Completely new requirement, so there isn’t a comparable “old” requirement.

8a. After completing Second Class requirement 7a, be physically active at least 30 minutes each day for five days a week for four weeks. Keep track of your activities.

8b. Share your challenges and successes in completing First Class requirement 8a. Set a goal for continuing to include physical activity as part of your daily life.

Why were pullups dropped?

From the BSA’s FAQs:

While some of the physical fitness elements are more challenging in the new requirements — such as the one-mile walk/run compared to the old quarter-mile — this change is intended to ease up on our expectations of the Scout. Pull-ups are difficult and have been a frustration in the past for some Scouts trying to earn Tenderfoot. Sometimes even very fit people are unable to succeed with pull-ups. The expectation is that a regular physical fitness program in the ranks will improve overall fitness. Pullups might still be part of a troop program, whether in the SCOUTStrong program, working toward the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) or the Climbing merit badge, or just overall fitness.

Where can I learn more?

On the BSA’s Program Updates page and in this PDF.

44 Comments on New Boy Scout requirements put more emphasis on physical fitness

  1. Does this apply to new Scouts only? Do the boys need new books yo track this information or do we continue with the books they currently have?

    • Good questions! Read the FAQ for the answers. The FAQ is here:

  2. Has anyone out there created a page with the new requirements, in the proper size to paste into the scout handbook? I don’t want to buy all the boys new books, and am hoping some generous person has done this work for me. 🙂

    • There will be one posted at next year.

  3. I suspect that Scouts who haven’t earned the rank by January 1st must incorporate the new requirements, but I’ll wait for the definitive answer from the experts. I too would like to see the pre-printed pre-sized page.

  4. The following is cut and pasted directly from BSA’s webpage. Basically, scouts who joined prior to 1/1/2016 will be able to finish the rank they are working on, and then must follow the new requirements for the next rank. Since scouts can work on Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class at the same time, a scout working on any one of these can finish them all under the old requirements, until 2017.

    For 2016:
    • Boys joining on or after Jan. 1, 2016 MUST use the new requirements.
    • Boys who have joined prior to Jan. 1, 2016:
    • Who are working on the Scout badge MAY continue to work on the existing
    requirements, but MUST convert to the new requirements upon completion of
    the Scout badge.
    • Who are working on Tenderfoot through First Class MAY continue to work on the
    existing requirements, but MUST convert to the new requirements upon
    attaining First Class.
    • Who have completed First Class MAY complete the rank they are currently
    working on in the existing requirements, but then MUST convert to the new
    requirements for subsequent ranks.
    For 2017: All Scouts MUST use the new requirements regardless of rank.

  5. It is always a challenge to help a Scout create a long term goal. The oddity is that the goal setting / following process is much more challenging than the exercise itself.

    The 30 day fitness requirement is a challenge for some of our Scouts not because of the type of exercise or the effort. It is merely the planning / tracking of a 30 day effort. I wish that there was a way to achieve the goal of fitness without the challenge of the 30 day tracking effort.

    Most of our Scouts are in a PE program through school, so 30 min a day is easy. For some Scouts, they are in a “block” schedule which gives them PE every *other* day. They will be challenged to create their own 30 min opportunity on the days that they do *not* have PE.

    • My son is able to track daily activity with his fitbit. He manages about 15,000 steps or 5 miles a day and about 37 minutes of physical activity. How great would a BSA fitbit be, where they could enter push ups, and sit ups as well. The best is that it is easy to track activity over a months time. Fitbit age requirements for tracking are 13+ so a BSA tracker for age 11+ could be perfect for these requirements.

  6. Bryan, is there a good link to a webpage to explain “Back-saver sit-and-reach (Record the distance stretched.)”?

    • Here is a link to a couple of drawings on the website. I think the personal fitness book also has drawings of how this exercise works.

    • To answer your question about the back saver sit and reach: Check out the FitnessGram test administration manual that is online at

  7. While childhood obesity is “a real thing,” the body of research does not show that more exercise leads to lower obesity rates. Many people that don’t achieve weight loss after committed exercise become disillusioned and quit exercising. So it is probably not a good idea to suggest a firm link between exercise and lower obesity.

    That being said, regular physical activity has been linked to better overall fitness, heart health, mental health, and longevity. There are plenty of reasons to encourage regular physical activity without resorting to unproven myths.

    • Bryan Wendell // December 3, 2015 at 10:34 am // Reply

      To what body of research are you referring?

      Here’s what the CDC says about reducing the risk of obesity in young people:

      And the American Heart Association:

      And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

      Each of those sources links physical inactivity to an increased obesity risk.

      • The larger issue is that there are multiple causes for childhood obesity, and lack of physical activity is just one. Check out the CDC website > DNPAO Home > Overweight and Obesity > Children. One of the main contributors (see the American Heart Association article linked above) is diet: calories in being out of balance with calories out. Physical activity has many benefits, including increasing the amount of calories burned; but even lots of strenuous physical activity can’t overcome intake of too many calories — and our culture heavily promotes consumption of excessive amounts of food.

        That said, increased physical activity can make a huge contribution to preventing the slow creep toward obesity when a person’s calories in/calories out balance is off just a little bit. More than 3/4 of kids are not obese, and this increased emphasis on physical activity can help keep them from becoming obese. I applaud these changes, especially Tenderfoot 6b, Second Class 7b, and First Class 8b, which promote setting goals, planning, and making a record of a Scout’s efforts.

        • Bill Nelson // December 3, 2015 at 12:58 pm //

          Move exercise (move more, even walking helps a LOT); eat less; eat right (cut out the sugar) If you do these 3 things I have found that you will lose weight.

          Good examples help here. Scoutmasters need to be fit as well.

    • My doctor put it simply: “Move more and eat less.”

      So, increased physical activity is one part of the equation. And there are individual differences about that balance of the other part.

      On the whole, active folks will be less likely to be obese. That’s because most people, when they take up exercise, don’t increase their calorie intake to the point that they would still gain weight. (Collegiate football players are a notable exception.) So, 100 hundred randomly selected active kids are going to have fewer obese among their ranks than the same number of inactive kids. Getting any group of kids to be active is good for the group and the majority of individuals within it.

      That does not mean that none of your active kids are going to be obese. There’s still that lineman! And that one who binges every time he/she exercise. And (sadly) that one with the undetected heart condition or some other ailment. The work of taking care of the exceptions still remains to be done.

  8. Are any changes forthcoming in regards to Scouter (adult leader fitness)?

  9. Just like the ranks reqs for First Aid MB can be covered simultaneously, these reqs can be covered simultaneously with the Personal Fitness MB. I think it’s a great way to get this MB done (in my experience, it seems that a lot of Scouts wait until the end to do Personal Fitness)…and it keeps them “physically fit”!

  10. Kelly Horton // December 3, 2015 at 12:36 pm // Reply

    How about all of the obese adult leaders and committee members? I have only seen a few SMs that were fit and trim. I think that the adults should be setting the example first before we ask the boys to do it. We all take the same Scout Oath and state “to keep myself physically fit”. I think most scouters have overindulged in good dutch oven cooking over the weekend camp outs.

    I used to work with a Marine. He said that the USMC would have the officers do PT right with the lower ranks. What a good example of leadership. I do not recall seeing a single fat Marine while in the service.

    Just so anybody reading this thread knows, I am on the unfit category, so I am passing judgement on myself. It would be best if there was an emphasis on ALL scouters to be physically fit.

    We would not wanted good leaders dropping off dead due to overweight illnesses. The longer we stay alive, the more youth we can serve over a longer period of time. I guess people will say “Ouch” or “Amen” to this.

    • Patrick Provart // December 3, 2015 at 1:46 pm // Reply

      Some of us are doing so. I’m currently working my Wood Badge ticket and my “personal growth” goal includes a reduction in my weight of just under 30 pounds before June 1.

      I started on October 1 needing to drop 35 pounds, so I’ve made progress even with the holidays.

      • Go, Patrick, go!

    • Until recently, I was an obese Scouter. Under the guidance of my doctor and the Lord above I’ve lost 50 pounds in the last seven months. By eating less. I started small — leave a little of that Big Mac in the box, don’t take that last bite of mashed potatoes, substitute the natural apple sauce for the sweetened stuff, substitute water for milk. I weigh in every morning, and once I saw a weight loss trend (weight goes up and down each day), I kept doing a little more and a little more to keep it going. No fad diet; I eat whatever I want, just less of it — or none of it, when I know it isn’t worth the calories. My choice. I started choosing high bulk/low calorie foods for their calorie count. Ha! Turned out they were mostly fruits and vegetables. Found the lowest calorie McDonald’s menu items and lower calorie regular packaged foods that I like. Got the MyFitnessPal app on my phone so I can track all of my food intake (calories in), water consumption, and exercise (bonus calories out) — now it’s a competition with myself to stay under my calorie goal. Daily gratification, or as we say in Scouting, immediate recognition.

      Increased exercise certainly helps. But I also know that I can waste a good workout with one stray cupcake or a small bag of chips.

      And I know I’ll be counting calories and making better food choices not just until I lose another 40 pounds, but for the rest of my life. I can live with that, because it’s my choice. But boy, does it feel good. Especially when you get to donate clothes you’ve shrunk out of.

      • Kelly Horton // December 3, 2015 at 5:21 pm // Reply

        Pat and Dan,

        Awesome news to hear! I am encouraged! I need to get back to cutting my eating by 10-25%. Eat the same stuff, but less of it. I have exchanged mustard over miracle whip for tuna fish sandwiches. Drinking 2 glasses of water before eating a meal. For Thanksgiving, only having one plate of food and not getting a second serving. Cutting down on breads and pasta. A lot of little behavior modifications add up over time. The opposite of little bad habits that caused the weight gain over an extended period of time.

        I have thrown around the idea of getting a load of wood and splitting it for someone. Working out in a gym seems to be a waste of energy, so cutting wood seems to accomplish a workout with a purpose.

        Rewarding yourself with small clothes seems to be a good idea. Bummer that you have to buy new scout uniforms.

        So at least there are three scouts out there heading towards weight loss. Perhaps more will speak up and encourage others to take off the weight.

        30 pounds by June sounds reasonable to me. That is only 5 pounds a month or 1 1/4 pound a week.

        Dan, God warns about people being obese and it is a form of idol worship and a lack of self control. Jehova Jira. Try fasting and prayer once a week. Fasting brings clarification for your prayer life. After 9/11 happened I prayed and fasted for 11 days. At day 11 I was pretty weak and felt that I was done praying for people and the situation. I felt as though my skin was constantly crawling. I guess I was metabolizing a fat layer just under the skin.

        I guess I went from physical fitness to spiritual fitness. I guess they are intertwined as well.

        • Kelly, you are so right — a lot of little behavior modifications add up over time. For me, keeping the changes small meant that they were almost painless, especially when changing from something I liked to something else that I liked but was better for me. That makes the changes sustainable for the long haul. But the biggest thing was that I knew in my spirit that I was ready to do it. That little voice deep down inside told me I was ready, and it was — and remains — full of encouragement and certainty. And when I slip, which I have many times, it tells me to shake it off and get back in the game.

  11. The new requirements are great. Scouts who are enrolled in a phys. ed. or health class should have no problems with this. Hopefully, it will be required in all levels of scouting and highly encouraged for adults as well. This a neat thing for this physical educator & Eagle Scout to see happening!!!

  12. Will scouts be able to “double dip” the fitness requirements for T-2-1 and personal fitness merit badge? As a PF counselor I see double dipping as a short cut to both rank and the merit badge and a bypass of the intent of the changes. The intent as I see it, is to get the scouts to move more. If allowed to double dip, they won’t have to move more, still 3 months total in upwards of 7 possible years in the program. If we really want to get them moving double dipping should be explicitly forbidden in this area.

    • I would leave that up to the counselor. I could imagine plenty of grey area.

      If the boy the boy started on the MB prior to working on tenderfoot, and really took to practicing every day for 30 days straight, I could see the sense in taking the next 60 days to try some different work-outs. That could easily include those 30 minutes a day, but may also demand something more.

      On the other hand, if the boy didn’t really do much those 30 days and improvement was just barely enough to get tenderfoot, I could see the sense in asking the boy to figure out why he didn’t really try, then set him on a proper 90 day regimen that may or may not overlap with his trail to 1st Class.

      Fact is, most boys won’t start the MB they’ve advanced beyond 1st Class. But even for those who start early, it’s similar to the camping nights which also count for rank advancement and a merit badge. Do we really want different rules for each kind of requirement?


    For Tenderfoot through First Class, the one month physical fitness chart, used to be the _only_ time dependent requirement (limitation).
    In theory, a very diligent and organized young Scout could pass over the WeBeLoS bridge and attend his First Class Court of Honor a month later (30 days), under the old criteria.
    Most adult Scouter object to such a rapid path, even if ‘perfectly legal’ under the BSA’s current 2015 printed requirements. And, most Troops are not organized to provide the campouts, etc., for any Scout (though patrol level actives, might provide a workaround, with help of a supportive PL/Guide) to use such a rapid path.

    Under the new S-T-2-1 requirements, the rapid path will be three months (using 4-week months) for the First Class Court of Honor.
    Not a big deal, but possibly one less Eagle Palm by age 18.

    [This “quarter of a year” would also apply to the Venture/Sea Scout new person, who was never a Boy Scout earlier, who is thinking about the challenge of Eagle (or as near as possible) in high school. For the 14-15-16 boy with an athletic and outdoor background, the T-2-1 requirements could be considerably less of a challenge than the typical (or less) 10-1/2 or 11 year old still adjusting to no being a Cub Scout. Does this “quarter of a year” create an added disincentive for such a newly joining 14-15-16 year old?]

    • I’m one of those opposed to high speed, low drag. But …

      I don’t think it’s a disincentive for older newbies. Most such youth are beyond fussing over badges, but maybe this will have the reverse effect. For older and otherwise sedentary youth who are looking for a physical challenge, this may be the what they’ve been looking for!
      If they are suddenly working out every day, they might start thinking “Maybe I can also tackle another requirement!”

    • Nahila Nakne // December 4, 2015 at 4:57 pm // Reply

      Actually, Sea Scouts and Venturers cannot work on Boy Scout ranks in general, and Eagle specifically, UNLESS they were a Boy Scout and earned First Class.

      • I have offered male venturers who told me they regretted missing out on starting the trail the eagle the opportunity to also join our troop and make up for lost time. Then, once they earn 1st class they can decide if they want to stay a member of both troop and crew or would rather devote their time to one unit or the other.

        So far, none have offered to take me up on the deal. But, this is a big country, and I’m sure there’s a venturer somewhere who did something of the sort. In general, I don’t see the revised trail to first class as being much of a problem for such a one.

  14. The “show improvement” can be one second faster, or
    better form, or
    less out of breath, or
    develop worm-up routine for activity, or
    develop pacing of activity, or
    adopt more suit able clothing/shoes for activity, or
    diet (e.g., not eat candy bar while exercising), or
    test and develop better/safer route for run, or
    mood control/progress, or
    time management skills, or
    better attitude and appreciation of physical exercise (?).

    Reading closer, the “show improvement” only applies for Tenderfoot.
    The Second and First Class requirements only require recording numbers, “share” and “plan” to be active in the future.

    There are no effort level or improved time number criteria. Just do the activity for 30 days, at a level the Scout chooses, and write the numbers down. No more, no less.

  15. What about fitness requirements for adult leaders? We must lead by example!

    Fyi, if a Scout has already begun his Tenderfoot to First Class path, then they have until Jan 1, 2017 to complete under the current requirements for the trail to First Class. Camping nights and service hours are also being increased. These are positive changes, IMHO, as it better prepares Scouts for a healthy life and leadership progression. In recent years, the path to Eagle has gotten more difficult, while more Scouts are achieving it, due to greater support systems implemented by BSA. When I earned my Eagle in the late 80’s, other than Summer camp, there were no merit badge days and Scouts had to be especially self-motivated self starters to initiate and complete a MB.

    • The same requirements could apply to adult leaders. Unfortunately, in the mid-60s, adults were no longer permitted to persue rank advancement.

      Maybe if, to be considered trained, direct-contact leaders were required to earn first class under the leadership of their SPL/JASMs instead of taking that weekend IOLS course, the double-standard that you perceive might not be so great.

      • I think the PALA award is still available for adults:

  16. I love to see the emphasis on physical fitness / health. How on earth are children going to learn to appreciate the creation if their bodies aren’t well maintained & without the cardio for an hour hike? BTW please examine this petition against the council’s plans for destroying 200 acres of Oregon’s finest natural habitat!

  17. Physical Fitness is not only important for obtaining strength, endurance, weight loss and control, it helps to balance your lifestyle…There is a boost of your motabolism, as well as chemical changes that alternate between increased endorphins, and self control..making decisions, and tasks easier to accomplish. With a schedule of daily exercise, after a few years, if overweight the body has conformed to endure without accessive fat cells. It is written that once the body decreases fat cells, that the body is used to enjoying (this reaction only occurs after a number of years of lowered body fat), there will be fewer cravinngs for food with accessive fat and calories…Just a note, once you have reached your goal, and maintained weight, a spluge every now and then will not increase weight as your metabolism has adapted to your body mass, keeping your weight under control….Hear it from me…8 years of weight maintenance, with a few pounds yet to go…Scouts get an advantage to learn physical fitness now, that will lead to a healthier lifestyle later on in life..Get i shape now, so that you never have to be concerned later…Physical fitness also decreases type 2 diabetes associated with get fit now!

  18. Physical fitness isn’t just for Scouts; adults should set the example. By the way BSA, how about creating a physical fitness square knot? It would be a small but great incentive for adults.

  19. How about clearing out the soda and junk food from the camp and event trading posts?

  20. Why not just include the fitness badges in the ranks. Like they do the citizenship badges. There’s plenty of them. From all the swimming badges, boating badges, outdoor badges, sports and activities badges. There’s no shortage to keep kids active.

  21. I’m a Scout Mom and a registered Committee member and I have also adopted a healthier lifestyle. Last year alone I lost around 40 pounds and 6 1/2 inches off my waist alone.My total weightloss is 80 pounds. I did it through Dance, walking, running and praying. I also learned to love myself where I currently was. You have to address more than what you are eating, you have to address what’s eating you! If I could, I would show you before and after pictures. I think it would be a great idea if we ( or some of the Personal fitness merit badge Counselors) could create a fitness page to share tips, excerise, diet, pictures & progress to give not just our Boys goals, but to encourage parents and leaders to get onboard. I can tell you I post every day I workout on my personal Facebook page. It keeps me accountable and has encouraged a lot of people who follow me to join in.

  22. how many push ups should a just turned 7 year old boy be required to do daily!

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