Air Force Becomes First Service to Ditch the Hated Tape Test for Good

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Theodore Clever measures an airman's abdominal circumference.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Theodore Clever measures an airman's abdominal circumference during a physical training test, Dec. 19, 2013. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Franklin R. Ramos)

As the Air Force announces another postponement to physical fitness testing for airmen and Space Force members due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it’s also moving to eliminate permanently the waist measurement portion of the assessment, sometimes known as the tape test.

PT tests, scheduled to resume next month, will now be on hold until April due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a service release. But the tape test, which measures weight and waist circumference and widely unpopular among airmen, is gone for good, Capt. Leah Brading, a service spokeswoman, confirmed to

When the test does resume, it won't include the waist measurement component, officials said; height and weight measurements are not set to resume until October 2021.

"The DoD requires services to maintain a physical fitness assessment program and a body composition program. Over time and based on feedback, the waist measurement portion of the test was determined to be a better fit within the separate body composition program," Brading said.  "The conditions associated with COVID-19 provided a good opportunity to make this adjustment permanent."

She added that the service was "currently looking into" what the body composition program should entail.

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"We trust that our airmen understand the standard of good physical health practices and we are all finding innovative ways to stay fit," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown said in the release. "We also trust that leaders will take the appropriate steps to keep their airmen safe while making every effort to provide fitness options during the pandemic."

In March, the service suspended physical fitness testing until at least May 30; that change meant that members who were slated to take the PT test between March and May got a six-month reprieve.

Officials delayed testing again until at least Oct. 1. Then in September, the service announced it would resume testing on the push-up, sit-up and run components starting Jan. 1, but would not administer the tape test in order to adhere to proper social distancing protocols, Brown said at the time.

"Originally, we hoped to resume testing by January 2021," Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass said in a statement on Monday. "However, based on the number of cases nationwide, the right thing to do is focus on keeping our airmen and their families safe. Delaying and reevaluating the PT test is the best option for our people."

The test will consist of the 1.5-mile run, one minute of push-ups and one minute of sit-ups, but an airman's composite score will be calculated "with full points for the waist measurement portion" until further notice, the release said.

Brown added this change may force the service to reexamine how it conducts PT, and what component commanders could permanently ditch or alter to incorporate new and more effective training.

"Along with removing the waist measurement, we are also exploring alternative strength and cardio components to our current Air Force fitness assessment," Brown said. "We believe these potential test structure changes will impact airmen in a positive way and help with a holistic approach to health and fitness standards."

The service has been working to roll out additional job-specific PT assessments to test airmen on critical skills, such as enhanced agility and strength training.

The service said it will reassess the new April start date depending on COVID-19 restrictions and if bases can accommodate physical distancing protocols and other local precautions.

Commanders "may delay official fitness assessments beyond April 2021 if necessary, based on the recommendation of local public health officials, the continuation of closed fitness centers and extended state-wide restriction of movement and gathering," the release said.

Airmen and space members can check on their next PT test due date via the "Official Physical Assessment Due Date Matrix" on the myPers website.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

Related: Air Force Pushes Back Plans to Restart PT Tests


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