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Exercising three times a week probably isn’t going to be enough to excel in the Air Force fitness tests.

There’s also the matter — sometimes considerable — of maintaining the waistline. Part of the tests involves a tape measure being stretched around the abdomen.

“People have to think more about their diet,” said Tech. Sgt. Chris Jenkins of the 48th Medical Support Squadron at RAF Lakenheath in England.

The new tests are harder to prepare for, he said, and should force airmen to take better care of themselves all the time.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Couser, who works at the Health and Wellness Center at Aviano Air Base in Italy, said that means less fast food for lunch for him.

“I quit eating at the food court,” the 24-year-old said.

Most restaurants run by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service offer at least some items for those trying to watch their weight. The popularity of the low-carbohydrate diets in the States has seen to that. Others generally offer food with less fat.

“I’m sure Robin Hood’s sales have gone up, and Subway,” Couser said of the sandwich concessions. “Because you can get a healthy meal there.”

Of course, those who do their own cooking have even more options.

Mike Dowling, Europe Region director for the Defense Commissary Agency, said stores in Europe stock more than 500 items specifically targeting those with “special dietary needs.”

He said commissaries have recently added dozens of products targeting those interested in losing weight, keeping off weight, or just eating healthier in general.

And he said those looking for specific products they don’t see should let the agency know about it.

Couser said he’s noticed that other habits are changing. He’s one of those responsible for getting people to quit smoking on base. The number of people enrolled in classes has gone up, he said. And he attributes that directly to the new fitness standards.

“They’re finding out, ‘Hey, I can only make it around the track one or two times before I have to stop,’ ” he said. “Then they come and sign up.”

Staff writer Ron Jensen contributed to this report.

Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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