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Fitness Program Manager Carey Karger tries out Yokota Air Base's new stationary bicycles for the cycle ergometry test. The bikes are automated, and airmen may pedal between 50 and 80 rpm.
Fitness Program Manager Carey Karger tries out Yokota Air Base's new stationary bicycles for the cycle ergometry test. The bikes are automated, and airmen may pedal between 50 and 80 rpm. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Airmen here setting out to prove their physical prowess now get to pedal on $5,000 bikes.

Yokota’s Health and Wellness Center recently purchased eight new stationary bikes for the cycle ergometry test.

The test, which measures how efficiently the heart and lungs transfer oxygen to the muscles, is a required part of every airman’s annual fitness evaluation.

Though the bikes are shiny and new, the test isn’t easier — just more comfortable, said fitness program manager Carey Karger.

On the old bikes, airmen had to maintain a speed of 50 revolutions per minute. A person acting as a fitness monitor, meantime, adjusted the resistance accordingly to get a valid assessment; heart rate must be at least 125 beats per minute.

The new bikes automatically adjust the workload. Airmen can also cycle between 50 and 80 rpm. In the process, two variables that could have slightly affected test results are eliminated: manual adjustments prone to human error and a participant’s nervousness about maintaining a certain pace.

“Before, you could only go between 48 and 52 rpm,” Karger said. “As soon as you went over that, you might start to panic. With this, you can be comfortable, maybe just relax a little more.”

Wiping the sweat from his brow, Maj. Norm Maloy, 39, said he noticed a subtle difference in his just-completed ergo test.

“I just get to go [at] my own pace instead of having to keep up to the pace of the bicycle,” he said.

Maloy wouldn’t say whether he passed.

The cycle ergometry test has been the Air Force cardiovascular standard since 1992.

Yokota is one of the first bases in Pacific Air Forces to adopt the automated bikes. Karger did not know which other bases have them.

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