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Is Running-Based Fitness Test Coming to Air Force?

Paul Steinbach

The U.S. Air Force may soon rely on running as the primary means of assessing the fitness of airmen and airwomen, according to a report in Runner's World.

The proposed test would use the measure of a person's VO2 max — how efficiently the body uses oxygen while running — as the numerator in the formula. That numerator would then be divided by the denominator, which would be the person’s waist circumference divided by height.

Neal Baumgartner, head of the Air Force’s exercise science unit, shared the new concept in a meeting of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service last week.

The example that Baumgartner used in the meeting was a service member running a mile and a half in 10 minutes and 23 seconds. That time would indicate a VO2 max score of 50, which would be on the fitter end of the scale. If he had a waist circumference of 35 inches and a height of 70 inches, the denominator would be 0.5. Taken together, that would give a score of 100 — the “fitness-fatness index.”

So a quicker run could help balance out the effect of a less-than-desirable waist-to-height ratio.

The overall score would ultimately measure the link between aerobic fitness and body composition, according to Baumgartner. And the hope would be that the new test could provide a level playing field to all service members, regardless of gender.

The current Air Force fitness test includes a 1.5-mile run with maximum push-ups and sit-ups in one minute, with points given for each category. The new test would do away with push-ups and sit-ups.

No timeline has been set for the possible change.

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