One year after launching a more rigid physical fitness program, Air Force officials have tweaked the Fit to Fight program, and will stop penalizing wide-waisted airmen who otherwise meet healthy weight standards.

“[The changes] won’t affect very many people, and in truth, are minimal changes,” said Lt. Col. Sherry Sasser, chief of health promotions for the Air Force surgeon general. “But I think it will improve our ability to intervene much sooner and may give those few who fall outside of the set parameters a way to earn [full points] if they have a healthy weight. It’s not a lowering of standards.”

Airmen who otherwise would have had points deducted for not meeting the waist circumference test now will get full points if their Body Mass Index falls within the healthy range, she said.

The BMI is calculated by one’s weight in kilos, divided by height in meters squared, or by weight in pounds divided by height in inches squared and multiplied by 703. A BMI of 19 to 25 indicates a normal or healthy weight, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Fit to Fight replaced the Air Force’s cycle ergometry test, and measures airmen’s fitness by using a 1.5-mile run, waist circumference or BMI, and number of pushups and sit-ups they can do. Airmen will continue to get up to 50 points for the run, 30 points for waist measurement or BMI metric, and 10 points each for sit-ups and pushups.

Anyone earning a poor fit score of 70 or lower will have to enter a five-day-a-week exercise program.

Officials also changed the time airmen have to be retested if they fall in the low fit category — they will be retested within 90 days instead of the current 180 days. The change lets health officials assess sooner the effectiveness of weight loss or exercise programs and make necessary changes, Sasser said.

The length of time allowed to complete the 1.5 mile-run will be increased for tests done at higher elevations.

The changes came out of the physical fitness program’s first annual review and will go into effect either in late spring or early summer, Sasser said.

Air Force leaders rejected health officials’ recommendations to change the scoring system to 60-20-10-10, which places a greater emphasis on the cardiovascular benefits of the run, Sasser said.

The change was rejected because they did not want to make too many changes too soon, she said Officials will continue to monitor the program and might adjust the scoring system during next year’s review.

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