The Importance of Physical Fitness in Firearm Related Self Defense

firearm physical health

A while back I was cruising around YouTube to check out some gun videos, and I was taken back by the number of “experts” in the videos who suffer from obesity. I hate to generalize or judge but I couldn't help but consider for a moment the role of physical fitness in this world of self defense.

Life is a constant push and pull challenge between work, family, health, passion, and the endless list of other things that are probably important for us to consider. As much as any of us try to have and do it all we always fail somewhere. But, physical health and fitness are primary for anyone considering preparedness and self defense.

Physical strength and Aerobic health WILL help you stand your ground if you feel it is appropriate. They WILL help you retreat if and where it is possible and appropriate. They WILL help you withstand the chemical and physiological response associated with fear of your life. They WILL help you recover from injuries (like gun shots) should you incur any.

On occasion I've heard comments that would suggest that owning a firearm and being competent in its use somehow justifies a lack of physical health. “I don't need to run or fight, I'll just shoot.” This is as absurd as it is naive.

Physical health is also a part of any tactical shooting plan. The odds of you standing in an open space and firing back at your attacker are slim. You will likely have to move to obtain tactical cover and the faster you can move and the better you are able to manage the cover you use, the higher your odds of survival are.

So I leave this thought with the American gun community, knowing that none of us are perfect in this effort, that we must take our physical training and health habits just as serious as our firearm training and handling habits.

What are your thoughts around physical health and self defense? How do you balance this?

As a side note, we teach a lot of moving skills, how to use cover, moving from one cover to the next, moving to rearward cover, and many other skills in our Shooting Skills Library available to Guardian Nation Members …

Find out more about how to become a Guardian, here. 


About Jacob Paulsen

Jacob S. Paulsen is the President of provides in-person and online firearm training for American gun owners. The Company is currently teaching in-person classes in 25+ states with a team of more than 55 instructors. Jacob is a NRA certified instructor & Range Safety Officer, USCCA certified instructor and training counselor, Utah BCI instructor, Affiliate instructor for Next Level Training, Graduate and certified instructor for The Law of Self Defense, and a Glock and Sig Sauer Certified Armorer. He resides in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with his wife and children.


  1. Doug Williams on April 14, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    Our first tool in self-defense is our own physical ability to escape. One must keep in shape to be physically and mentally tough. I encourage my Instructor team to stay in shape so we look as good as we can in our classes and can properly train our students.

  2. Longenecker on April 15, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Fitness is the ability to do tasks. Health is a state of body. Wellness is a state of mind and of well-being.

    Put it all together and you have someone who is self-dedicated before he/she can aid others, someone who has values of integrity, and a sense of right and wrong. Courage to receive that sort of sense of deserving wellness and health, and a sense of purpose in doing – often – for others.

    Staying in shape is critical not only to self, but community.

  3. BrownieTheDestroyer on September 7, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    100% agree with the article. Consider also the compromises one makes trying to conceal a firearm while acutely out of shape. Appendix carry is out. Your awareness of printing/brandishing unintentionally is increased. Your reaction time to a threat is reduced. Your likelihood of becoming a Crisco-filled bullet magnet goes way up and you’re a bigger target. Your body’s ability to handle stress is reduced and you could feasibly go into cardiac arrest if the stress of a self-defense encounter ever actually happened. In summary, you’re easier to hit and easier to kill. Don’t be that guy.

  4. MLeake on September 12, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    I would slightly disagree with the first poster in that awareness is the primary tool for defense. Physical fitness is not too far behind in importance, but good awareness may make physical fitness, tactics, and gun handling skills unnecessary.

    I would also submit that basic martial arts training is useful, in two ways. First, it helps with mindset, and the concept of moving while engaging. Second, there is higher potential for a confrontation that would legally and morally justify a basic physical response than for one that legally and morally justifies deadly force.

    Just think how differently the Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman story would have played out if Zimmerman’s jujitsu skills had been good enough to stop Martin before the 9mm became necessary. Martin would probably be alive, and Zimmerman’s life would probably not be in shambles.

  5. Esteban Cafe on September 12, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    Pass the ice cream and bullets. Who needs good health, we all gonna die. Oink.

  6. robert dugger on September 14, 2017 at 8:09 am

    It is not uncommon for a gunfight to be preceded by a hand to hand fight. Anyone who carries should know and practice basic hand to hand combat, in the form of blocking, side-stepping, palm heel, hammerfist, and elbow strikes, low kicks (as to the knee, etc.), eye jabs, and so on.

    These all make good exercise and can be done for that reason alone. Short sprints, as in running for cover, is also good exercise. So is getting down on the floor and back up quickly, crawling, and all other things you might be doing if you are forced into a fight. These things should be practiced full speed. That makes them excellent anaerobic interval training exercises, which is a type of exercise that is strongly recommended by exercise experts.

    If you carry your concealed pistol (with the chamber unloaded) when you practice these things they will show you if your carry method is secure enough. Far better for your gun to fall out on the floor (preferably a carpeted floor) during practice than in a real fight, where you might end up arming your assailant. Imagine if all that time you were carrying a gun it turns out you were carrying it for your enemy to use against you; that would mean that you not only die, but you die as a fool. So test your carry method well.

    It can be useful to do these things at the range before drawing and firing your pistol (just be careful you don’t get your coordination screwed up and shoot yourself; do it slow until you have it down); making yourself tired and out of breath with these exercises adds some difficulty to your practice that makes it more useful for a real life engagement. Then after firing a few shots look over your shoulders both ways and be aware of your surroundings.

    There are a lot of so-called martial art schools around but not many who teach pragmatic methods. So don’t just go to any school. Look for one that teaches you to keep your kicks below the belt and that does not do sparring, even with gloves on. This is because you will do whatever you have done in training if you are forced into a fight, and if you look at the things that are illegal in something like MMA, those are the things that should form the basis of your methods.

  7. Sutton Turner on February 6, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    I like how you said physical strength can help you with being faster and using tactical cover. My brother is thinking about becoming a policeman and is looking into a firearm training instructor. I appreciate the information on the positive relationship between physical fitness and pistol training. [link removed]

  8. Kenneth Curtis on March 28, 2019 at 4:21 am

    Along the lines of physical fitness, ever concealed carrier should take a basic course in close quarters hand to hand combat. You don’t need to be a black belt in any system to help dramatically increase your chance of survival in an attack.

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