Navy announces new changes to physical fitness policy

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Hundreds of midshipmen jog over the Naval Academy Bridge during sea trials at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. (Getty Images)

NORFOLK, Va. – The U.S. Navy has rolled out a set of new changes to their physical fitness policy in an effort to move away from body size standards and toward strengthening exercise tests.

According to the NAVADMIN release, the current model enforces maximum body fat percentages and minimum physical readiness scores, but falls short on evaluating a sailor’s overall health, WTKR reported.

Here’s what the Navy has to say about the changes:

  • Updated Physical Activity Risk Factor Questionnaire (PARFQ) to better assess sailor health.
  • New Navy Body Fat Percentage Standards based on a graduated scale that increases with a sailor’s age.
  • Body Composition Assessment (BCA) Methodology:  The new method for measuring BCA will consist of a three-step process.  A sailor who is medically cleared to participate in the PRT shall do so regardless of his or her BCA results.

A sailor has three opportunities to pass the BCA:

  • Apply the current height/weight tables to a sailor.
  • Apply a single-site abdominal circumference measurement. A sailor will pass the BCA if the abdominal circumference is less than or equal to 39.0 inches for men and less than or equal to 35.5 inches for women.
  • Sailor will pass the BCA by meeting the DoD maximum allowable body fat limit of less than or equal to 26% for men or DoD maximum body fat limit of less than or equal to 36% for women.

Stricter Navy standards will be used to help identify sailors well before they get to the DoD standards and risk failing the BCA, or even worse, developing health problems:

  • Men:

18-21 = 22 percent

22-29 = 23 percent

30-39 = 24 percent

40+ = 26 percent

  • Women:

18-21 = 33 percent

22-29 = 34 percent

30-39 = 35 percent

40+ = 36 percent

New resources will also be available to help sailors get or stay in shape, the Navy says. They include spot checks, command Fitness Enhacement Programs and diet/nutritional counseling.

Currently, sailors who fail three physical fitness assessments in four years are separated from the Navy.

With the new guidelines, all but one prior failure in the last three years will be erased from the records in January.

The number of failures will also be dropped from three in four years to two in three years.

Sailors who are currently being separated due to PFA failure are also being offered a second chance to be retained. They have the option to take and pass a PRT (mock or official) before December 1, 2015.

The Navy also says they have several initiatives lined up for the near-future:

  • Developing a Navy-wide Registered Dietician utilization plan;
  • Enhancing SHIPSHAPE and encouraging approved civilian diet programs;
  • Establishing “Go for Green” healthy-eating pilot studies ashore and at sea;
  • Providing more support for post-partum sailors to re-attain or exceed previous fitness goals;
  • Wearable-fitness device pilot studies to monitor caloric-intake trends, physical output, and rest;
  • Re-instating refined Physical Readiness Test scoring categories.

Information on each of these programs will be published between now and January 2016.