WASHINGTON, DC — 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 to be in place by 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, Air Force senior leaders are tweaking 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 have done surveys asking folks if they like the assessment and are there issues with it,” Dr. Taylor said. “[We are] now in the middle of updating a few changes to the Air Force instruction that defines the fitness evaluation.”

Updates to fitness assessment 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 test will now direct that body composition also be measured using body mass index (BMI). Airmen with a BMI of less than 25 will earn the full 30 points for body composition. For airmen with a BMI of 25 and above, the results of the waist measurement will be used to calculate their test scores, said Dr. Taylor.

“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.”

Those who score marginal, between 70 and 74.9 points, will now have 90 days to retest; currently, retest for marginal category is 180 days. This will be consistent with the retest time for poor scores, which are those less than 70.

Changes to the fitness test 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.”