AF fitness program changes take effect at Niagara

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kelsey Martinez
  • 914th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Air Force Reserve Command averages 1800-2000 fitness testing weather waiver exemptions annually due to inclement weather. As a result, Air Force Instruction 36-2905, “Fitness Program,” is currently under revision to evaluate the current physical fitness assessment components and compare them to alternatives for future recommendations.

As a result of excessive heat, rain, wind, cold temperatures, snow, etc., and inadequate indoor testing facilities, the 1.5-mile run places a significant constraint on many installations. The Air Force Exercise Science Unit was tasked with completing research and literature review examining a suitable indoor alternative to the 1.5-mile run portion of the PFA.

The ESU and experts from AFRC developed a timeline, established protocol guidelines, launched the study at host installations, and provided preliminary results to AFRC from April to August 2019. Installations included in the study were Westover Air Reserve Base, Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station, Youngstown ARS, Minneapolis ARS, Dobbins ARB, and Niagara Falls ARS.

Each host installation was required to collect the following data from each test subject: height and weight, age and gender, rate of perceived exertion using the Borg Scale, along with the number of shuttles completed compared to the 1.5-mile run time for each assessment.

The 1.5-mile run is a predicted aerobic capacity measuring the body’s VO2 Max. The indoor 20-meter high aerobic multi-shuttle run protocol has a strong correlation to the predicted VO2 Max such as that of the 1.5-mile run.  According to research, the HAMR test appeared to be practical, and an effective option to reduce issuing weather waivers during extreme weather conditions.

The 914th Air Refueling Wing exercise physiologist and wing fitness program manager, Paul Hackett, explained how the HAMR test is designed to help evaluate the cardiovascular fitness and performance capacity of each Airman.

Airmen are still required to pass the push-up, sit-up and abdominal assessment that contribute to their overall PFA score.

“This change will keep our Airmen resilient and ready, regardless of the weather,” said Hackett.

Hackett emphasized that one major difference between the two aerobic tests is the increased levels of energy being exerted from the consistent acceleration and deceleration of the HAMR test.

“The test will hopefully be a positive change for Airmen,” he said. “It should increase their balance, agility, coordination and overall fitness.”

Senior Airman DeAnna Afalava, a member of the 914th Aeromedical Staging Squadron health care management team, was part of the first group on base to take the HAMR test.

“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect,” said Afalava. “It was harder than I thought it would be and I see that I have to train differently to be prepared.”

Hackett explained that the HAMR test provides an integrated warm-up, has less distance of running compared to the 1.5-mile run, and has no finish line.

“The fittest Airmen run the longest,” he said. “The less fit finish earlier when they fault three times in a row or just decide to stop running.”

If Airmen do not pass this test, they will receive a “weather exemption waiver” and retest in six months. If they do pass and score over 90 they will only have to test once a year, said Hackett.

“There is a two year grace period,” he said. “Airmen have until January 2022 to adapt to the changes and train accordingly throughout the year.”

AFRC stated this grace period provides a realistic implementation and adaptation time frame across the entire command, along with educating and training for testing and injury prevention.

Change is inevitable, said Col. Mark Larson, the 914th Air Refueling Wing commander. However, it is a good thing that often leads to growth and new opportunities.