The Army is adopting a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to its ubiquitous tape test that measures body fat in soldiers.
Approved June 12 by Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, the new test will take a single measurement from all soldiers in the same place on their body: around the waist. Previously, male soldiers were measured at the waist and neck, while female soldiers were also measured around their hips.
The new methodology for the tape measurements follow the results of an Army study on body fat composition which began in 2021.
The new policy will be phased in over the course of a year. Until June 2024, soldiers who fail the new tape test can request the old one. They can also request a more comprehensive body fat scan when devices are available.
And soldiers who score 540 points or more on the Army Combat Fitness Test can skip the tape test all together.
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The Army’s previous taping method for measuring body fat was widely considered outdated, and could often be inaccurate. Research concluded that the test was accurate just 65% of the time. These anachronisms also disproportionately affected women. Many soldiers said they felt compelled to take drastic health measures to, essentially, make the taping requirements.
“I’ve seen people hit themselves in the neck thinking it will kind of cause it to swell up, or they’ll put their tongue at the top of their mouth … If you can get your neck bigger and your waist smaller, then you’re giving yourself every possible advantage,” an army major told Task & Purpose in 2021.
The new taping system is also meant to reflect the implementation of the Army Combat Fitness Test, with its emphasis on building muscle – and therefore possibly broader necks and hips – as a measure of fitness.
“We want well-balanced soldiers,” Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston said in March. “We didn’t want people to game it so you’d be really strong in one area, but you wouldn’t be well-rounded in fitness overall.”
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