WASHINGTON, DC -- Government officials say fitness programs are working to make the military healthier despite the fact that more airmen and sailors are being discharged because they are unfit and overweight.

In 2003, 331 airmen—mostly enlisted members—were administratively separated. At that time, the Air Force had specific weight and body fat requirements and required a cycle ergometry test. In 2004, the Air Force began its Fit to Fight program that included no specific weight requirements, just the abdominal circumference measurement, the 1.5-mile run, and timed push-ups and sit-ups. In 2004, one enlisted member was separated as a direct result of fitness failure, according to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

In fiscal 2005, the number of fitness discharges climbed to seven, with no officers among them. In fiscal 2006, 71 enlisted members and two officers were separated for fitness reasons, and in fiscal 2007, 119 enlisted members were separated.

Air Force spokesman Capt. Tom Wenz told the newspaper that officials are satisfied with the service’s current fitness program.

“The most recent review by the fitness advisory board indicates the test is meeting its goals in increasing the fitness scores of airmen,” he says.

The Navy also is discharging more sailors for fitness or weight reasons. In fiscal 2006, 1,913 sailors were removed due to a personal fitness assessment failure, either by administrative separation or by not being allowed to re-enlist or extend, according to figures from the Navy Times. Sixty-five were discharged for fitness reasons in 2005, according to the newspaper.

Navy officials say they’re seeing a drop in fitness test failures, proof that sailors are getting serious about fitness and that the tougher fitness policy is working. Enacted in August 2005, the policy states that three failures in four years can trigger automatic separation. Commanders can waive separation for those showing improvement or who are mission-critical.