The Air Force is preparing to launch a customizable physical fitness test where airmen and guardians can mix and match the exercises they prefer, a service official said Monday.
Starting early next year, the Air Force will offer a menu of options that fall into three categories: aerobic exercise, core strength and upper body strength.
In addition to the current 1.5-mile run to test cardiovascular health, troops can pick a back-and-forth shuttle run if they prefer sprinting instead of endurance running. The faster someone finishes the shuttle run, the better their score, Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said during a question-and-answer session on Facebook.
Service members will also be allowed to walk without first getting a medical waiver. Cardio will still count for 60 percent of a person’s total physical training score.
Pushups will remain as one option to measure upper-body strength, but airmen and guardians could choose variations on that exercise, Kelly said. For the abdominal portion, the Air Force will allow situp variations as well as planks. Each category will count as 20 percent of the total score.
Officials considered other exercises, like swimming, rowing and biking, but likely won’t add those to the menu because not all bases have the facilities or equipment to accommodate them. The tests should be equitable for any airman, no matter where they are.
“When we release this and introduce the other components, we’re going to have about a six-month break-in period, so people can test them out, can see, get feedback, but they won’t be able to count those,” he said. “If we have to make any adjustments, we’ll make those adjustments.”
Body composition measurements will resume on Oct. 1, but will no longer contribute toward the fitness test score. Decoupling waist circumference or another metric from the PT score is meant to discourage unhealthy behavior like calorie restriction and purging.
“Weight will not be a part of your PT test,” Kelly added. “That body composition, your weight will impact that.”
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass noted the Air Force also wants to give noncommissioned officers the ability to administer PT tests instead of asking people to go to a fitness assessment site.
Pushing back on criticism that the changes are watering down high military standards with a laissez-faire attitude, Bass said the Air Force must strike a balance between what bolsters readiness and what works best for members.
“We ought to be mindful when we’re characterizing changes that we’re making,” she said. “What are the standards that are non-negotiable, but what are some things we need to evaluate as we become that Air Force of 2030?”
Regular PT tests resume July 1 after multiple delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Space Force will continue following Air Force fitness requirements until it comes up with its own PT policies.
Rachel Cohen joined Air Force Times as senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), the Washington Post, and others.