Airmen Support Plan to Replace Fitness Test

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The United States Air Force’s annual Spark Tank campaign — which is designed to solicit creative solutions from airmen — netted an idea that is gaining traction: replacing the service’s physical fitness test.

Stars and Stripes reports that the proposal suggests replacing the once or twice a year fitness tests with a monthly, endurance-based program. The plan was submitted earlier this month to the Airmen Powered by Innovation website by Senior Master Sgt. Leslie Finley, who claims that the current testing regime contributes to stress and injuries that come with last minute test-preparation. She argues that a monthly, gender-neutral approach would increase fitness year-round.

The plan suggests swapping tests with new requirements, such as running a certain number of miles or spending a certain amount of time in the gym each month, which could be measured with an app or a fitness tracker. 

Finley’s plan has garnered the support of nearly 800 airmen in the Spark Tank campaign, making it the most popular pitch submitted this year.

Despite the popularity of the suggestion, questions remain as to how it would be put into practice, as apps and fitness trackers have been barred by the Pentagon at sensitive locations. That decision came in 2018, after the fitness app Strava published a global “heat map” that included military installations around the globe, including the locations of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. Funding may be required in order to develop an app capable of securely collecting and tracking data from various fitness apps. 

Related: Fitness App Data Could Expose National Security Info

Some airmen discussed the idea on social media, where it received both positive and negative feedback. 

“I love this idea,” one commenter wrote on Facebook. “It helps people maintain fitness, and even works around injuries. It assures that people take care of themselves without giving them an anxiety ridden ‘date to be fit’ by.” 

“It’s easier and less taxing than having my hand held throughout the month and having the Air Force prying even deeper in my life,” another commenter said. “I prep for my fitness test a month out, take the test, get a 90 and don’t have to deal with it for 12 months.”

Six “finalists” will be chosen from the submissions to the Spark Tank campaign, and those finalists will present their pitches to the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in 2021.


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