The Air Force is bringing their fitness test back after a hiatus due to the global pandemic, and there have been some changes. One of the biggest changes is that the waist measurement score component that was added into the PT test score in the early 2000s has been removed. The sit ups and push ups scores will increase from ten to twenty points and the one and half mile run will remain at sixty points.
Changes to Fitness Test Standards
I was in the Reserve Officer Training Corps program when the new fitness test standard of a waist measurement was added. And even though, I could score max points in all areas of the test, and I was far below the height and weight standard, I struggled to meet the maximum score of the waist measurement that at the time was less than twenty-nine inches.
There have been a lot of changes on how the waist measurement affected score. By the time I went on active duty if you were below the BMI, my waist measurement did not matter because I got all the points for being below the BMI standard no matter what my waist measurement actually was. It’s good to see it removed as part of the scoring section of the Physical Fitness test because it was not a fair or meaningful measurement.
Another positive change for the new Air Force test is the point chart has been changed from year groups of ten to five. This is a great change for those serving. Because over the span of ten years, a lot can change around physical health.
Flexibility is the key to Air Power
The Air Force is also working on providing alternative strength and cardiovascular testing options for Airmen and Guardians. The Air Force said they will be announcing the alternative programs in the coming weeks and then Airmen and Guardians will have six months to prepare for the new fitness test with the option of sticking with the traditional test currently offered. Airmen will begin testing again July 2021, and the new test option will begin January 2022.
The Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown Jr. said, “We are moving away from a one-size-fits-all model. More testing options will put flexibility in the hands of our Airmen – where it belongs. We know not all Airmen maintain their fitness the same way and may excel in different areas. Alternate components provide choices while still providing a mechanism to determine overall fitness.”
Learning from the Army’s Fitness Struggles
The Army implemented a new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) but did not give soldiers the flexibility to stick to the traditional test. There have been calls for change since the new fitness test was released in 2018 and even with a third iteration that is scheduled to go live in April 2022. There are still causes for concern even with the infamous leg tuck having the option of being removed with a full body plank.
The Army has been working to create a gender-neutral test but the rates of failure from women have far outpaced men. Internal figures from the Army for April show 44% of women failed the ACFT, compared to 7% of men since Oct 1.
The Air Force is hoping to side step the PR disaster the Army has faced with the ACFT by rolling out their new plan while bringing back the fitness program that was paused due to COVID-19 with minor updates that make the test better for all.
Chief Master Sgt of the Air Force JoAnne Bass said, “Physical fitness is an important part of our everyday lives, it’s more than just a test – it’s a way of life, our readiness and ultimately our future success. July 1st is a chance to refocus on building a lifestyle of fitness and health, and I know our Airmen will be ready.”