Airmen who fail to meet the U.S. Air Force's waistline requirement will no longer automatically fail the physical fitness test (PFT), the Air Force announced on Wednesday.
Starting on Oct. 1, airmen who fail the abdominal circumference (AC) portion of the test but pass the other components and meet body mass index (BMI) standards issued by the Department of Defense (DoD) will pass the PFT, according to an article published by Air Force Public Affairs on the Air Force's website.
The PFT includes aerobic, sit-up and push-up requirements in addition to the waistline requirement. Under the current PFT standards, men's waists cannot be bigger than 39 inches, and women's waists cannot be bigger than 35.5 inches.
According to the Air Force Fitness, Promotion, and Evaluation Policy office, more airmen fail the aerobic and sit-up components of the test than the waist component. Since the Air Force adopted the waistline requirement in October 2010, almost 1.3 million airmen have been evaluated, and only 5,141 airmen (0.4 percent) failed the waist requirement and passed the other three components. Of those 5,141 airmen, only 76 were discharged for failing.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III addressed the changes in a letter to airmen, which was included in the Air Force's announcement.
"We have a tremendous program that has fundamentally changed the Air Force's overall fitness level over the past few years," Welsh said. "The PFT itself is not going to change. But even the best program can be improved upon, so we are making changes in four different areas to enhance the overall program."
Other changes to the PFT include realigning the fitness appeal process, simplifying the walking test and adjusting passing standards for airmen who can only be tested on one component.
Although the number of airmen discharged from the Air Force for failing to meet fitness standards has increased in recent years, the failure rate was 4.9 percent as of June 2013, a significant decrease from 22.1 percent in July 2010.
"I believe we have DoD's best designed, best run fitness program, and as a result, we have a force ready for any mission our nation asks us to execute," Welsh said. "I'm extremely proud of how far we've come with our fitness culture."