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NEWS | Jan. 16, 2024

New Year Brings New Focus on Airmen Fitness

By Senior Airman Tylon Chapman and Senior Master Sergeant Vincent De Groot, 185th Air Refueling Wing

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – As the new year begins, post-holiday realities of too much eating and too little activity begin to set in. Many Americans choose this time of year to refocus their attention on physical fitness.

Military members are particularly focused on health and fitness, as maintaining fitness standards is a condition of employment.

After a brief hiatus, the Air Force has plans to officially reintroduce an old health requirement this spring with a new Body Composition Assessment.

The waist measurement is a distinct assessment separate from the physical fitness assessment. The BCA aims to measure fat distribution in the abdominal region. The body composition is calculated by taking the waist circumference divided by the height of the Airman.

Body composition measurement is required by Department of Defense Instruction 1308.03, DoD Physical Fitness/Body Composition Program. Air Force members are also evaluated with a physical health assessment each year. The “PT” test includes evaluating muscular strength, core endurance, and aerobic testing.

The current fitness test allows Airmen flexibility in measuring and scoring each event. Options for muscular strength testing include a one-minute timed pushup or two-minute hand-release pushups.

Core endurance can be tested with a one-minute timed sit-up, a two-minute cross-leg reverse crunch, or a timed forearm plank. Airmen can also choose either a 1.5-mile run or a timed 20-meter high aerobic multi-shuttle run.

Iowa Air National Guard Master Sergeant Benjamin Blackford works in finance at the 185th Air Refueling Wing. Blackford said he also helps the unit by serving as a Physical Training Leader. No matter how fitness is measured, Blackford said people who struggle with the test have difficulty because they need to prepare.

“I see that people who consistently do well usually lead healthy lifestyles,” said Blackford, “and that consistency usually pays off.”

Blackford has been a PTL for three years and has seen the benefits of the new alternative PHA options.

“With the Air Force allowing more options, there are more avenues than there ever was for people to succeed,” said Blackford.

To help service members on their path to maintaining fitness readiness, the Department of Defense created the Human Performance Resources by the Consortium for Health and Military Performance website. The HPRC site is a free resource for all service members. The site contains videos, articles, and other resources to help members achieve and maintain their desired “Total Fitness.”

According to the HPRC website, Total Fitness includes a combination of psychological, social, nutritional, spiritual, and physical fitness. Multiple topics aimed at developing Total Fitness and advice on physical training, nutrition, mental health, sleep, and more are available on the website.

Wade Kuehl works as the 185th ARW Director of Psychological Health, and he said exercise is a key component in maintaining good mental health, especially during the cold winter months. Kuehl explained that shorter hours of daylight combined with the succession of many outdoor activities can have a detrimental effect on mental and physical health.

“Exercise works as a natural anti-depressant,” said Kuehl, “the body releases dopamine and serotonin with exercise.”

Kuehl said that Airmen should maintain healthy lifestyles so fitness does not become a once-a-year thing. Kuehl explained that plenty of resources are available to Airmen at their local units.

The USAF Connect app has a fitness calculator where Airmen can do PT self-assessments. The AF Connect app is free on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

In Sioux City, the base gym is available to unit members 24 hours a day. The modest facility is equipped with free weights, resistance machines, and cardio machines like treadmills and stair steppers.

Kuehl said he has been offering a Physical Fitness Group for the past few years. Kuehl’s group meets on Wednesdays and Fridays during the week at 11:00 AM for an hour at the base gym, and sessions are open to all base members. A special benefit for employees and members of the Iowa National Guard is that they are allowed three hours per week to exercise.

Kuehl added that the New Year is a great time to reset or get started with physical fitness goals.



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