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AF releasing new fitness instruction

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Dec. 08, 2003) -- One of the most noticeable changes to the Air Force’s new fitness program is that it will be defined by an operational rather than a medical instruction.

The change shows that senior leaders consider fitness an important part of operational readiness, said Maj. Lisa Schmidt, the Air Force chief of health promotions operations.

“As we support the aerospace expeditionary force and the environments we now deploy to, fitness becomes a readiness issue,” Schmidt said. “If a person is fit, they are going to be able to tolerate austere environments, the fatigue and the temperature changes.”

The full text of the Air Force’s new fitness instruction will be available to the force before Jan. 1, she said. The planned release comes less than five months after the service’s highest ranking officer told airmen there would be changes in the way the Air Force looked at physical fitness.

“The amount of energy we devote to our fitness programs is not consistent with the growing demand of our warrior culture,” wrote Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper in his July Sight Picture. “It’s time to change that.”

Besides making physical fitness a readiness requirement, the new instruction also puts an emphasis on commander involvement in unit fitness programs.

“If you look at the July Sight Picture, General Jumper says fitness is a commander’s responsibility,” Schmidt said. “This instruction puts more responsibility on the commander, not the medical community.”

Among other things, the instruction requires unit and squadron commanders to implement and maintain a unit physical-training program and to offer the program at least three times a week.

The instruction also details methodology for conducting fitness evaluations. Schmidt said the instructions for conducting the push-up and crunch portions of the evaluation should be no surprise to airmen. They are the same instructions that have been used at the end of the cycle-ergometry test for the last two years.

“The only change is that the push-ups and crunches will be evaluated for one minute, instead of two minutes,” Schmidt said.

The instruction also specifies how to conduct the aerobic portion of the test. Airmen will run on an outdoor course approved by the wing commander. During inclement weather, an indoor running track may be used. Treadmills will not be authorized for fitness evaluations.

The new fitness instruction takes effect Jan. 1, and will make obsolete the current fitness and weight-management instructions, Air Force Instruction 40-501 and AFI 40-502.