YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Going to the gym is all about self-improvement. Appropriately, the Air Force has a program to ensure their fitness centers are improving.

The 5-Star Fitness Recognition Program is an annual evaluation of Air Force fitness centers designed to determine their best facilties worldwide.

This year, Yokota’s Samurai Fitness Center, along with the fitness centers at Misawa Air Base in Japan and Osan Air Base in Korea, were the three Pacific bases to receive the five-star rating.

The evaluation grades the centers in five categories: operations, programs, training, facilities and customer service.

Every category has several prerequisites, from offering a minimum of four intramural sports to having all staff members maintain first aid certification, said Tech. Sgt. Niaa Payne, non-commissioned officer in charge of fitness and sports programs at the Samurai Fitness Center.

Each requirement must be met to be eligible to earn a star in that category.

But to actually earn the star, they also must earn points based on additional criteria. Payne said items are assigned a point value and a star is given if a fitness center gets at least 90 percent of the points available in that category.

This is the first year the Samurai Fitness Center received the five-star rating said Pat Coleman, Samurai Fitness Center Director, adding that of the 115 Air Force fitness centers, usually fewer than 30 percent receive the top rating.

"It’s gotten harder every year to get the five-star rating," Coleman said.

He said training and facilities are the most difficult categories to receive stars because they are the most dependent on funding and staffing.

Yokota excelled in those categories this year due in part to the new fitness center annex — which added an additional 25,000 square feet — and to being able to obtain more money to train their staff, he said.

Payne said that another strength that helped earn the distinction is their special events.

"We run so many programs here," she said, citing the annual Wing Safety and Sport Day and the Central Japan Bodybuilding and Figure Championship as two examples.

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