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After Complaints, Air Force Revises Fitness Policy Again

Six months after fine-tuning its fitness policy, the U.S. Air Force introduced further revisions that went into effect on Jan. 1.

The initial policy changes had already led to improved scores. The pass rate rose from 77.9 percent to 82.6 percent within three months of implementation of the new fitness program, and the “excellent” (90 or more points) scores have almost doubled since the same time the previous year, according to Air Force statistics.

In July 2010, the Air Force commenced a new fitness policy in response to a 2008 Air Force audit that found the branch did not foster a year-round culture of fitness. Key changes related to how airmen would be evaluated and where and when fitness tests would be held.

With the new requirements, the annual test that had been conducted by unit personnel changed to twice-annual examinations at centralized, civilian-staffed locations called Fitness Assessment Cells. The goal, according to branch officials, was to promote physical fitness as a year-round pursuit and to ensure objectivity of the testing.

The additional revisions that took effect on Jan. 1 might be in response to airmen’s dissatisfaction with the new Fitness Assessment Cells. In December, The Air Force Times reported that it had received hundreds of letters from airmen complaining that the civilian testers were unfair in how they conducted the assessments.

Air Force fitness tests are comprised of four components: 60 points for aerobic, 20 points for body composition, 10 points for push-ups and 10 points for sit-ups.

Previously, airmen could receive a pass as long as their composite score was 75 points or more, but July’s revisions specified that minimum requirements must be achieved for each component. At the same time, the body composition component changed its basis from body mass index to abdominal circumference.

The core of the new program remains the same under the revisions that took effect on Jan. 1, but the guidance memorandum includes many specific clarifications about how the testing for each component should be conducted.

For example, the sit-up test now specifies that a repetition will not be counted “if that member’s hands or fingers come completely away from the chest or shoulder, or if their buttocks or heels leave the ground.” The guidelines for taking abdominal measurements are similarly precise, stating that the assessment “will begin with the tester on the right side of the airman, who will stand on a flat surface” and that “no part of the hands or arms may extend above the shoulders.”

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy said in an announcement that airmen have embraced the changes and the adjustments are meant to increase understanding of the test.

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