Oversize Belly Soon Won't Be Automatic AF PFT Fail

Airman 1st Class Schyler Turpin measures an airman's waist during a physical training evaluation at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. Photo by Senior Airman Tabatha Zarrella

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- It’ll take more than a big belly to fail the Air Force fitness test after changes to the evaluation go into effect later this year.

Since 2010, abdominal circumference has been a major component of the service’s physical fitness test, measured along with an airman’s ability to run and perform pushups and sit-ups.

But in a servicewide memo, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III wrote Wednesday that, beginning Oct. 1, “if an Airman fails the AC portion of the test, and passes each of the other three components, we’ll measure that Airman using the Body Mass Index” guidance laid out by the Department of Defense.

If the airman meets the DoD’s BMI standard, they’ll pass the test, he wrote.

Many have complained that the girth standards -- a max of 39 inches for men and 35.5 inches for women -- are unfair, because thick-bodied and muscular airmen are at a disadvantage.

But of the roughly 1.3 million airmen who have taken the test since 2010, Welsh wrote, only 348 have exceeded girth limits while passing the other components with a passing composite score of 75 or higher.

That, according to Welsh, equates to roughly three out of every 10,000, “so this is an unusual occurrence.”

Welsh also suggested that the claim that “many” airmen have been kicked out of the service over their waistlines is overblown.

“The fact is that since we started the new Fitness Program, only 76 airmen have been separated from the Air Force” for repeatedly failing the girth standards alone.

Three other changes to the program kick in Oct. 1 as well, Welsh wrote, including realigning the fitness appeals process, adjusting passing standards for members who can take only one component of the fitness test and simplifying the walk test.

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Air Force Topics Fitness