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Measurement even less when testing waist alone

Apr. 16, 2013 - 08:53AM   |  
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The Formula

Out of a possible100 points for the Air Force PT test, the run is worth 60 points, situps and pushups are each worth 10, and the waist measurement, 20. When only the waist measurement can be completed, due to injury or illness, the score is converted to a 100-point scale for that component.
Here’s how:
A male airman with a 39-inch waist would receive 12.6 out of 20 possible points. To convert, divide 12.6 by 20, then multiply by 100 (12.6/20 = .63 x 100 = 63). The PT score is 63, far short of the 75 points needed to pass.

If you think the waist measurement component of the Air Force’s PT test is unfair, get injured. Then you’ll really have something to complain about.

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If you think the waist measurement component of the Air Force’s PT test is unfair, get injured. Then you’ll really have something to complain about.

That’s because airmen sidelined by an injury, or other medical problem that prevents them from taking the full PT test, still must pass the waist measurement — and they won’t pass by simply coming in at 39 inches, the maximum for men, or 35.5 inches, the maximum for women. Instead, they must meet an even higher standard than airmen who can do the situp, pushup and 1.5-mile run portions of the test.

At a minimum, airmen taking only the tape test must keep their waists an inch and a half smaller, said Capt. Kristina Rennie, a spokeswoman with the fitness, evaluation and promotion policy branch.

“When looking at the score charts, the minimum [abdominal circumference] measurement that will guarantee an airman passes the [fitness assessment] are 34 inches for females and 37.5 inches for males,” Rennie said.

Here’s how it works: The highest score an airmen can get on the waist measurement is 20 points on the 100-point test. When only the waist measurement can be completed, the value of that score is calculated at 100 points. For example, a male airman between 30 and 39 years old with a waist measurement of 38 inches would receive a score of 14.4 out of 20 possible points. When converted to a 100-point scale, the airman would receive 72 points — and fail the PT test.

It’s an aspect of the test that most airmen don’t know about until they find themselves injured.

That was the case Staff Sgt. Seth Roese.

The 6-foot-2 airman was in a motorcycle accident and suffered injuries that required surgery. He couldn’t work out for two months. When he learned that he would only be tested on his waist measurement and that his waist couldn’t be larger than 37.5 inches, he was floored. While he passed, he still thinks the rule should change.

“I feel that it is very unfair to require someone to have such a small waist when they are physically incapable of performing physical activities to burn fat and stay in fit form,” Roese said. “I understand that this may not look great in uniform at times but sometimes this is just an unfortunate circumstance that people should not be punished for.”

Based on how the Air Force calculates test scores, Roese received 16.2 points for his 36.5 waist, bringing the calculated score for the test to 82. He would have received just 63 points for a 39-inch waist.

Master Sgt. Michael Ball, who is 6 foot 5 and 41 years old, said it’s hard to meet that smaller 37.5-inch waist requirement at his age. He said he’s required to meet the same standards as airmen who are a foot shorter, 20 years younger and a hundred pounds lighter, and he’s practically starving himself to do it. He had back surgery, and like Roese, he’s being tested only on his waist measurement.

“It’s already unfair for big and tall people to have the 39-inch standard at the best of times, but to measure me after I haven’t been able to work out in months, and expect me to have an even smaller waist, is ridiculous,” he said.

Rennie said the overall goal of the fitness program is to motivate airmen to participate in a year-round physical condition program that emphasizes total fitness including optimal body composition and healthy eating.

“Being physically fit allows airmen to properly support the Air Force mission,” she said. “The fitness assessment provides commanders with a tool to assist in the determination of overall fitness of their military personnel.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody has made reviewing the waist measure one of his top priorities. He said in a February interview with Air Force Times that he would take six months to study the issue and decide whether changes should be made.

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