The U.S. Air Force has provided new details on the menu of options it will offer airmen -- from planks to sprints -- on its latest physical fitness assessment debuting in coming months.
Last week, Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass first mentioned the service will offer more options for airmen and Space Force guardians to choose from when they do PT next year, including hand-release push-ups. Now, the service has given a few more specifics of what troops can expect to see.
Airmen will choose options to fit three mandatory categories the service already uses -- one aerobic and two strength events.
For the cardio-aerobic training, airmen will have three options: the standard, 1.5-mile run; a 1-mile walk; or a 20-meter "high aerobic multi-shuttle run," according to a July 2 news release. Airmen may choose either traditional push-ups or hand-release push-ups for one strength event; and either sit-ups, a cross-leg reverse crunch or planking for the second strength component, the release states.
The current fitness test is gender- and age-adjusted. The service said the new options also will follow that model, but specifics will be provided at a later date.
The run, for example, may have other scoring characteristics. An airman's time to complete the 1-mile walk will be weighed against the member's "age, weight, and heart rate at the time of walk completion," the Air Force said. But because the aerobic portion of the 1.5-mile run is based on speed, health risks such as weight and heart conditions, and the airman's age, "there is no significant difference of scores between the walk and run tests," the service said.
"The 'walk' is not a stroll in the park and both the pace required and method for computing aerobic fitness make it 100% equivalent to the run," Kelly said in the release. "In fact, I think we'll find fewer people will prefer that option over the more traditional mile-and-half run."
Kelly said that while the Air Force has considered other alternatives such as rowing, swimming and biking, they will not be used for the revamped PT test, which will begin at bases starting in January 2022.
"If you are at a remote location or a location that does not have a pool or other needed equipment, those options become less equitable," he said. "We want our airmen to have the same options no matter where they are testing."
The service suspended its PT test multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the current PT test, which resumed July 1, airmen complete a timed 1.5-mile run, and try to do as many push-ups and sit-ups as possible in one-minute events.
The tape test, which measures waist circumference, will be used to determine whether an airman is in compliance with body composition standards, but the result won't be counted in the overall PT score. Last year, the service said it would finally ditch the tape test but backtracked months later because of a mandatory requirement outlined in a Department of Defense instruction document.
Tape measurements will begin in October, the release states.
The Air Force increased the maximum score for the sit-up and push-up events from 10 points to 20 points each after it stopped counting the results of the waist measurement test. The best possible score for the run remains 60 points, meaning an airman could achieve 100 points on the test overall.
The service also created smaller age brackets for both men and women, according to the new scoring sheet. Previously, age groups spanned 10 years: under 30; 30 to 39; and so on. Now, age groups will be broken into five-year increments: under 25; 25 to 29; 30 to 34; and so on.
Scoring benchmarks remain the same: An "excellent" composite score is 90 points or higher, with all minimum components met. A satisfactory score is between 75 and 89.99 points. Anything below 75 is a failing score.
The Air Force has debuted a new app called myFitness to track an airman's progress and host other health records.
The application, which replaces the Air Force fitness management system, includes medical information, past scoring history, fitness reports, and an updated dashboard that shows whether a test was completed, updated or if an airman has an upcoming evaluation, the release states.
The app hosts a scheduling system for an airman to book his or her fitness test alongside an instructor with same-day options.
Extended: CoachMePlus App
With Air National Guard members not always able to access base gym facilities or equipment as a part-time, volunteer force, the Air Force has extended its contract with a digital health and fitness tracking program called CoachMePlus for its Warrior Performance Platform application.
The company, partnered with The Informatics Applications Group, last week announced that some Guard units will use the data-collecting app, which shows airmen what characteristics they should improve on, such as nutritional requirements and exercise repetition, and what type of new strength conditioning they should consider to achieve their personal goals and avoid injuries.
The app offers suggestions and feedback -- just like a coach or nutritionist.
The Air Force said it's not only a way to prepare for an upcoming PT test but part of its overall goal for airmen to make their health a priority.
"The technology was envisioned as a way to support airmen with fitness coaching anywhere, anytime," an Air Force spokesperson told Military.com. "We started this work before COVID and will continue after COVID."
An initial deal was made in 2019 to test the coaching tool's proof of concept. The latest pilot contract will run until February 2022 with the Ohio Air National Guard's 179th Airlift Wing and 180th Fighter Wing using the platform, the spokesperson said.
"A shift from a culture of fitness testing to a culture of fitness is key to improving the health and fitness of service members while reducing injury risk," Kevin Dawidowicz, CoachMePlus co-founder and president, said in an email.
The latest phase with the Ohio wings means 1,200 service members will have access to the tech, he said.
The app relies on integrated data, such as sleep tracking and other input from wearable technologies like smartwatches, to help airmen improve their overall well-being.