04/18/04 — Airmen jump into fitness regimen

View Archive

Airmen jump into fitness regimen

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on April 18, 2004 2:02 AM

The mind and bodies of airmen at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base are expected to become stronger each day under a new fitness test.

"There has definitely been a change of atmosphere on base," said Lt. Col. Pat Sargeant, head of the base's Health and Wellness Center.

The fitness center is packed in the mornings and afternoons as airmen are hitting the gym three times a week.

Ms. Sargeant said that 1,420 active-duty airmen have been tested since the program began in January. The results so far indicate that 10 percent of them scored in the excellence category, 58 percent in good, 12 percent in marginal and 20 percent in poor.

She said the 20 percent is skewed because the percentage includes the initial group of 750 airmen who did not pass the old fitness test and were in a weight management program. They were expected to test a little lower than everyone else, and they were the first to test and had to deal with the cold weather in January.

The new test came about after Gen. John P. Jumper, Air Force chief of staff, sent a letter to bases last summer expressing the need to keep airmen fit and ready to perform any mission.

All active-duty airmen are required by the U.S. Department of Defense to be tested for physical fitness at least once a year. The old test did not require a run and had no standards for muscular strength, said Ms. Sargeant.

Airmen go through a medical screening prior to the test, and their height, weight and abdominal circumference are measured. The circumference is the length around a person's waist using a line that begins with the hip bone. Men have a greater risk of heart disease if their circumference is over 40 inches, and women do if it is over 35 inches, she said.

Scoring for the test is based on a 100-point scale, and the circumference counts for 30 points. The number of pushups and crunches that can be done in one minute count for 10 points each, and a one-and-a-half-mile run or a test on a bicycle counts for the final 50 points. The total number of points are figured as a percentage, and the airmen are placed in a category, she said. Gender and age play a role in how they are scored.

Those placing in the excellent or good category have to test again in a year. Airmen in the marginal category have to attend a workshop within 10 days, where they learn how to become healthier. They then take the test again within six months.

Those in the poor category attend the workshop and a fitness improvement program where they workout four times a week. Their workout is monitored, and they fill out forms when it is done. They take the test again within three months, she added.

The separate base units have been preparing for the test. Unit commanders decide the best times for their units to be tested.

The base started using a computer program this month to download all of the test data, and all of the units must have their information in the computer by April 30.

Ms. Sergeant expects everybody to be tested by the end of the year, and only those who are pregnant or had recent abdominal surgery are temporarily exempt.

She said the test is going well overall and that a majority of the airmen have made positive comments about it and are pleased with the change.