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Staff Sgt. Quinton Hunt of Hokah, Minn., and with the 31st Maintenance Squadron, fights to do one last crunch Friday as part of his Air Force fitness test at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
Staff Sgt. Quinton Hunt of Hokah, Minn., and with the 31st Maintenance Squadron, fights to do one last crunch Friday as part of his Air Force fitness test at Aviano Air Base, Italy. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

AVIAN AIR BASE, Italy — Nearly 30 percent of Europe’s airmen who took the new Air Force fitness test in January and February scored either “poor” or “marginal.”

According to U.S. Air Forces in Europe, 968 out of 5,704 airmen who took the test of push-ups, sit-ups, waist measurement and 1.5-mile run scored “poor” by the Air Force standard, while another 708 barely passed.

The new test bases 50 percent of airmen’s scores on their run time and 30 percent on their waist size. The sit-ups and push-ups count 10 percent each. The test replaced one that measured airmen’s heart and breathing rates while they rode a stationery cycle.

“It’s definitely more challenging, for sure, than the bike test,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Aspen of Virginia Beach, Va., and the 31st Maintenance Squadron, after finishing his test Friday at Aviano.

“I didn’t find the bike test hard. This gives you a better overall picture of fitness.”

Airmen who flunk the new test with a score of 69.9 or lower are required to enter a five-day-per-week training program and are retested until they get their score above the “poor” rating.

“Marginal” airmen who score between 70 and 74.9 must take a health course and be tested again within six months.

The first batch of results could have been worse, according to Minda Smither, fitness program manager for the Aviano-based 31st Fighter Wing.

“We were expecting a 30- to 40 percent fail rate,” Smither said. “With the cycle test, people could just stay within a certain range [and pass].

“With the running, most people are going with maximum effort.”

Fifty-nine percent of USAFE airmen were graded as having “good” fitness, while 12 percent were graded “excellent.”

The new fitness test was announced last summer. It requires that airmen do one minute of push-ups followed by a short rest, then one minute of bent-knee sit-ups or “crunches” followed by another rest, then a 1.5-mile run. Waist-size is the fourth part of the test.

Some in-shape airmen claimed the cycle test, in which they either passed or failed, 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.

Smither said out-of-shape airmen who are scrambling to get fit before their test should pace themselves.

“You’ve got to walk before you can run,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to seek professional advice.”

Overtraining can cause back, knee and ankle injuries and even heart attacks, Smither said.

“Get with the experts before doing something that could injure or even kill you,” she said. “[Airmen] should see a fitness instructor or visit their Health and Wellness Center.”

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