Measuring fitness: Medical squadron commander explains fitness program

  • Published
  • By Col. Walton F. Reddish
  • 512th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
In July, the new Air Force Fitness program became the standard by which we all will be monitored to ensure our health, wellness and fitness to fight. The twice a year assessment and the arguably more stringent evaluation has generated some grumbling among the ranks. Rather than curse our luck, let's take a look at what the assessments are meant to measure and why these measurements are important.

The waist measurement is designed to evaluate body composition. It replaces the old Body Mass Index because scientists have decided that it is a more accurate representation not only of your current health, but also of your risk for developing certain diseases. The majority of Americans have known for years that increased body mass increases the risk for diabetes and heart disease, as well as certain types of cancers. A lifestyle of exercise and a healthy diet will certainly reduce your waist size. The consumption of high glycemic index carbohydrates, such as refined grains and alcohol, tend to add to your central body fat storage, hence the term "beer belly." Granted, certain body types will never have slender waists, but we can all work toward improving our current measurements.

Aerobic testing will still be accomplished through the 1.5-mile run. This evaluation assesses your cardio-respiratory health and muscular endurance. Other services use a 2 or 3-mile run but Air Force experts have determined that the 1.5-mile run is a good test of aerobic fitness. In addition, the run component of the test fosters the "culture of fitness" that the senior leadership is trying to instill into the Air Force way of life.

The push-up and sit-up portion of the program measures your core and upper body strength. The best way to increase your score in these areas is to perform the exercises on a regular basis. Do not make the mistake of concentrating only on the testable areas and ignoring the rest of your workout routine. Overall fitness is the goal.

While adapting to the new testing, the first thing Air Force members must do is adjust their mind set. We must not view ourselves as "preparing" for the fitness assessment. The approach should be that we are going to live healthy and exercise. As a result of that change, there will be an improvement in our Air Force fitness scores.

Deploying to areas and working 12 to 16 hours a day with temperatures to 120 degrees and near 100 percent humidity is tough enough when you are in perfect condition. Add to those stressors deconditioning and some degree of obesity and the strain could be deadly. We owe it to ourselves, our families and the Air Force to keep ourselves in the best shape possible to meet those demands and to return home healthy.

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