In-shape airmen welcome chance to get off bike
August 11, 2003
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Airmen in Italy welcomed the change to the U.S. Air Force’s annual physical fitness test.
The new standard, to be implemented next year, will require airmen to pass a 1½-mile running test instead of the current cardiovascular test administered on a stationery bike.
“I never thought the bike test accurately determined a person’s fitness level,” said 1st Lt. Kevin Varga of the 603rd Air Control Squadron.
“For those of us who can go out and run three miles without a problem, it’s not going to be biased against us,” said Tara Valentine, a special agent with Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
The change was announced July 30 by Gen. John P. Jumper, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force. Time requirements have not yet been determined for the 1½-mile run.
Many airmen said the bicycle test was unfair because it measured fitness only after a person had been on the bike long enough to reach a target heart rate. Well-conditioned airmen took longer to reach the elevated heart rate, they said, and therefore were more worn down after reaching it, when the test began.
Out-of-shape airmen quickly reached the target rate, they said, and had more strength left for the test.
“There were guys who would smoke beforehand or work out to get their heart rate up before [the bike test],” Varga said.
The current test, which airmen have to take annually, has been in place for 11 years. It also includes minimum standards for push-ups and sit-ups. Those exercises will be part of the new test, Jumper said in his July 30 letter to Air Force personnel.
Minda Smither, fitness program manager for the Aviano-based 31st Fighter Wing, said the current test sets minimums on push-ups and sit-ups based on age.
For example, a man aged 25-29 would have to complete 40 push-ups, while a man 40-44 would have to do 30 push-ups. A woman 25-29 would have to complete 50 crunches, while a woman 40-44 would have to do 32.
The new amounts have not yet been determined, Smither said.
Smither said she felt the bike test was “overall … fair and valid.”
She said there was a different, manually administered bike test that well-conditioned airmen could have taken that could have elevated their heart rates more quickly. But she acknowledged that most probably did not know about it.
Some airmen wondered if physical training would become included in their duty time — or would have to do it on their own.
“The Air Force as a whole would be better off with [mandatory PT],” said Staff Sgt. Marcus Odom of the 31st MXS - Ammunition, who agreed with the change from stationary bike to running. “But when I’m off [work] I’m going home to my family.
“If [mandatory PT] is implemented into the work schedule, I’d have no problem with that.”
Airman don’t get kicked out of the Air Force for failing the annual physical fitness test.
Smither, the wing’s fitness manager, said airmen can be put on voluntary or mandatory fitness regimens until they do pass. They can also receive a letter of reprimand for continually failing.
Staff Sgt. Regis Burdier of the 31st Civil Engineering Squadron welcomed the change in the test from stationary bike to running.
“I say go for the run,” Burdier said. “That actually measures what you can do.”