Yet again this year, Airmen on social media rejoiced after the Air Force announced on Monday that it would push back physical fitness tests from January to April 2021 to encourage social distancing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In particular, the Air Force Reddit page queued up with memes and photos of the greasy food to be enjoyed guilt-free without a fitness test lurking around the New Year corner.
“Originally, we hoped to resume testing by January 2021,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass, in a press release. “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.”
Commanders may delay fitness tests beyond April, depending on conditions at the time, the Air Force said. The test has been delayed since March, when coronavirus cases were first ramping up nationwide.
In fact, in the mile-a-minute speed of internet forums, the celebration memes soon became a cliché.
But it wasn’t just the delayed test being celebrated. The Air Force also permanently removed its widely-despised waist measurements. Though height and weight measurements will resume October 2021, the end of waist measurements was warmly welcomed by many airmen, which some experts said were an ineffective metric of fitness.
Some airmen even went to the point of starving themselves to pass the waist test, former Chief Master Sgt. of the Air force Kaleth Wright said last September, according to Military.com.
“And then they try to run or do the other components, and we’ve had airmen who have lost their lives or have become injured,” Wright said.
The Army went through a similar tape debate, Air Force Magazine reported.
“[B]ody types are so vastly different that we would actually penalize people that were incredibly fit and could pass the physical fitness test,” Retired Army Maj. Gen. Malcolm B. Frost, the former commanding general of the Army’s Center for Initial Military Training, told Air Force Magazine. “I, for one, think it’s time that we move away from tape tests as a predictor of anything that has to do with fitness and prevention and rehabilitation.”
When it resumes in April, the fitness test will consist of a 1.5 mile run, one minute of push-ups and one minute of sit-ups, the Air Force said. The composite score will be calculated with full points for the waist measurement portion until system changes can be made.
Even more changes may be on the horizon, Brown said.
“Along with removing the waist measurement, we are also exploring alternative strength and cardio components to our current Air Force fitness assessment,” the general 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.”
Of course, just because the fitness have been delayed doesn’t mean they are gone forever. As one Redditor put it:
“Covid or not, and for those of you who are on the line for passing like I am, please don’t push it off any further,” they wrote about getting back in shape. “Cheers to everyone who can now enjoy their Christmas break without having to worry about testing in January, but please let this be the wake up call if needed to start getting back in shape if you haven’t already done so! PT is not going away forever, it will always be part of your career, so if you want to do 20, like myself, try to find that motivation to get back on it!”