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Health officials recommend changes to fitness program

WASHINGTON -- Air Force health officials recommended seven changes to the fitness program during the program’s first annual review.

This first annual assessment consists of reviews by three panels: functional, external and leadership, said Lt. Col. Sherry Sasser, chief of health promotions for the Air Force surgeon general. Air Force officials conducted the functional review while experts from outside agencies and universities gave their opinion in an external review.

The leadership review will begin in late April. Commanders and senior enlisted leaders will be randomly selected via e-mail to take a Web-based survey. The survey data will be compiled and forwarded to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper.

One consistent aspect of the program, however, is that Airmen worldwide are embracing fitness as a way of life.

"We are seeing a change in the culture of the Air Force," Colonel Sasser said. "Gyms are being used morning, noon and night and are packed. Units are running together. It's wonderful to see."

In the interest of fostering the positive trend, officials said they are considering the following changes to better the program.

-- Award full points on the body composition component of the test if the body mass index is within a healthy range. The Air Force is adding height and weight back into the standard to accommodate Airmen unable to obtain the minimum abdominal circumference but are still at a normal weight for their height. National Institutes of Health officials define an index of less than 25 as a normal or healthy weight.

-- Move the waist-circumference measurement to a controlled area for people rated poor or marginal and are being retested to reduce inconsistencies.

-- Lengthen run times for tests conducted at higher elevations.

-- Retest Airmen who are rated “marginal” at 90 days instead of 180 days.

-- Promote nutrition as an important aspect of education and intervention.

-- Emphasize regular physical training rather than test results.

-- Reinforce commanders' accountability.

A proposed change to weighing the programs components at 60-20-10-10 instead of the current 50-30-10-10 was rejected. The weighted areas, expressed in percentages, correspond to the run, waist measurement, crunches and pushups.

Two smaller changes will be made to the assessment criteria. Values for females aged 50 to 54 were not consistent with all other age categories, so officials will adjust the criteria according to American College of Sports Medicine standards. A category was also added for people older than 60.

The program changes are expected to be implemented in June, officials said.

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