WASHINGTON--Air Force officials are making a few changes to the physical fitness test used to assess the fitness of Airmen, according to a recent Air Force report. Changes are hoped to be made by late August or early September.

In January 2004, the Air Force underwent a major change in the way it looked at fitness. As part of the Fit to Fight program, the service adopted a more stringent physical fitness assessment that measures aerobic fitness, physical strength/endurance and body composition. Now, 18 months into the program, senior leaders are ready to tweak the assessment to make it even better, said Lt. Gen. (Dr.) George Peach Taylor Jr., Air Force surgeon general.

"We have gotten together a group of scientists and done surveys asking folks if they like the assessment and are there issues with it," Dr. Taylor said. "This last year we brought an update to Corona and are now in the middle of updating a few changes to the Air Force instruction that defines the fitness evaluation."

Updates to AFI 10-248 will include a change in how body composition is measured, a new table for the running portion of the test that takes into account the runner's elevation, and a change in the number of days an Airman must wait before retesting after having scored in the marginal category.

Under the original fitness evaluation, body composition scores were based on abdominal circumference only. The updated AFI will now direct that body composition also be measured using body mass index. Airmen with a BMI of less than 25 will earn the full 30 points for body composition, and for airmen who score a BMI 25 and above, Dr. Taylor said the results of the waist measurement would be used to calculate their test score.

"That will still be an important measure of their health," he said. "Waist measure is closely related to increased risk for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Fat distribution is the critical indicator, as opposed to weight."

For those who score marginal, between 70 and 74.9 points, the Air Force plans to correct the time to retest at 90 days; currently, retest for marginal category is 180 days. This will be consistent with the retest time for poor scores, those less than 70.

Changes to the AFI will also include adjustment for those at high-altitude installations. This applies to those at installations with an elevation of 5,000 feet or greater, Dr. Taylor said.

"We'll use the formula for altitude calculations recommended by the National Collegiate Athletic Association," he said.

The Air Force continues to look at ways to improve the fitness evaluation and remains committed to the Fit to Fight program, Dr. Taylor said, because the program has proven successful.

"Participation at fitness centers is up 30 percent now," he said. "And if you go to the field, like in Iraq or Afghanistan, you will find a continued focus on health." The assessment is not the focus of the fitness program, but a tool to assess the commander’s fitness training program.

“I want to make very clear that my focus is not on passing a fitness test once a year,” said Gen. John P. Jumper, Air Force chief of staff, in his Oct. 17, 2003, Chief’s Sight Picture. “More important, we are changing the culture of the Air Force. This is about our preparedness to deploy and fight. It’s about warriors. It is about instilling an expectation that makes fitness a daily standard -- an essential part of your service."