Air Force becomes first military branch to remove fitness 'tape test'

Air Force becomes first military branch to remove fitness 'tape test'
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The Air Force is cutting the much-loathed waist measurement portion of its annual physical fitness tests for airmen and Space Force members, the service announced.

The Air Force, which also said it will postpone the fitness tests for its service members until April due to the coronavirus pandemic, is the first military branch to eliminate the practice, which is also known as the tape test.

“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 Brown said in a statement on Monday. “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.”


The military uses the tape test as a method to estimate body fat, measuring the waist of an individual and then comparing that against the person's height to determine body fat percentage.

But service members complain that the test does not give an accurate reading, as it does not take muscle mass into consideration, and could negatively impact their careers unnecessarily.

In addition to throwing out the waist measurement segment, the Air Force is also exploring “alternative strength and cardio components” for its current 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.”

This is the fourth time the Air Force has delayed physical fitness testing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The service in March first suspended the tests until the end of May, but later pushed that pause until at least Oct. 1.


Officials hoped to resume testing by January, but Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass said that based on the number of coronavirus 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,” Bass added.

Commanders may delay the official fitness assessments again beyond April “based on the recommendation of local public health officials, the continuation of closed fitness centers and extended state-wide restriction of movement and gathering,” according to the statement.

While the waist measurement is permanently removed from the assessment, height and weight measurements will resume in October. The test will also still consist of a 1.5-mile run, one minute of push-ups and one minute of sit-ups.

--Updated at 1:56 p.m.