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Air Force will let airmen walk instead of run and choose what physical tests they want to do

An airman performs push-ups during Fit Flag at Baker Field House Feb. 24, 2012, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Araos/Released)
June 30, 2021

On Monday, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, previewed some of the changes to the service’s official physical fitness test, including allowing for service members to choose from a “menu” of different test items, with options walking instead of running and letting service members do a form of modified push-ups instead of traditional ones.

While Air Force Chief MSgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass said the service will officially announce the changes to the fitness test “soon,” Kelly did provide some previews of the new test features during a Facebook virtual “Coffee Chat” event.

“We all know fitness is important and it’s going to be hear to stay,” Kelly said. “Some people asked, ‘is it going away? the answer is ‘no it is not’ . . . but we think there is an opportunity to give more options.”

Describing some of the modifications to the Air Force’s standard 1.5-mile run, Kelly said, “Say you’re not a long-distance runner but you wanted to run fast back and forth, we have a way to do a shuttle run back and forth, about 20-25 meters apart over a timed distance, and the fastest you can do that will correlate your score, just like your 1.5-mile distance,” Kelly said. “… There’ll be an option to walk. Today you can only walk if you get a medical leave, right? You’ll have an option to walk as well.”

Kelly then said, “The push-up component will have other things to look at strength, there will be a way to look at what we call ‘raised-hand push-ups’ so instead of just going up and down, you’ll be in your push-up position and periodically raise a hand up and push a hand down and do that for a certain amount of time, again to give you another way to measure strength if just the push-up component doesn’t work for you.”

Describing the abdominal strength portion of the fitness test, Kelly said, “Today we just have our crunches, now we’re going to have a different version of those and we’re going to have planks.”

Kelly said the new modifications to the Air Force fitness test will have “about a six month break-in period, so people can test them out, can see, get feedback, but they won’t be able to count those.”

Kelly said by around January or February of 2022, the Air Force will officially release the new fitness test alternatives, “And when you get ready to test you choose off the menu, ‘I’d like to do the mile and a half run, I want to do the planks and I want to do the cross-hand up-down push-ups.”

Kelly said the new fitness test still feature the same scoring system out of 100 points.

The Air Force’s new fitness test features come after the U.S. Army announced it would have its own modifications to the core strength portion of its new fitness test, known as the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT 3.0), allowing soldiers to choose between the leg tuck and the core plank. The addition of the core plank came after predominantly female soldiers in struggled with the leg tuck event. Along with allowing soldiers to choose between the two core tests, the Army also plans to have a gender-specific percentile chart for evaluating the gender-neutral test scores in promotion considerations.