WASHINGTON (AP) — After three years of complaints and debate, the Army has scrapped a physical fitness test that was intended to be gender- and age-neutral and will now allow reduced standards for women and older soldiers.
The decision comes after a study by the RAND research organization confirmed that men were passing the new six-event fitness test at a much higher rate than women and that older soldiers were also struggling with their scores.
The change will affect only the regular fitness test that soldiers take annually. Qualifying for certain Army jobs, particularly more demanding combat positions or specialties such as Ranger school, will continue to require that everyone — regardless of age or gender — pass the same fitness tests and standards.
The Army revamped the fitness test three years ago, going from three events — pushups, situps and a run — to six events — dead lift, power throw, push-ups, leg tuck, run and a combination sprint/drag/carry. Fairly soon, the leg tuck was replaced with a plank.
Chaitra Hardison, a behavioral scientist who wrote the RAND study, said the data showed “some groups failing at noticeably higher rates — women, older soldiers, Guard and Reserve personnel and soldiers in some occupational specialties.” She said the difference in passing rates was the largest between the genders.
In its study, RAND said that because the test is used for promotions and can affect a soldier’s career, the Army needs to make sure the minimum standards are valid and necessary for everyone.
“With the pass rates we observed, many soldiers would be failing if the test were instituted today, including soldiers who were viewed as being in otherwise good standing in the Army,” the study said. It said the Army should consider that a number of those are women and soldiers older than 45 who are in leadership roles.
The new program also brings the Army back in line with the other military services, whose varying fitness tests all use tiered event requirements based on age and gender.
The Air Force last changed its test in July 2021. It requires a minute of push-ups, a minute of sit-ups and a 1½-mile run, with standards varying by sex and age — find those standards here.
The overhaul of the Army’s fitness test in 2019 was triggered by complaints that soldiers were not fit enough. Nearly half of the commanders surveyed a year earlier said new recruits could not meet the physical demands of combat. Officials also said that about 12% of soldiers at any one time were unable to deploy because of injuries.
Under the new plan, there will be a trial preparation period. Active-duty soldiers will begin taking the test in April, but will not be penalized if they fail. The test will officially take effect in October, when the results will begin to count. Soldiers will take the test twice a year.
Guard and Reserve soldiers will have until next April to take the test without consequences, and then the results will start to count. They take the test once a year.
Once the scoring begins taking effect, those who fail will be able to retake the test after several months. If they fail twice, they will be discharged from the Army.
APFT (1980): Three events, all with standards varying by age.
- Two minutes of push-ups: Minimum 16-42 for men, 7-19 for women.
- Two minutes of sit-ups: Minimum 26-53.
- Two-mile run: Maximum time 15:54 to 20 minutes for men, 18:54 to 25 minutes for women.
ACFT 3.0 (2019): Six events, single standard.
- Dead lift a weight three times. Minimum 140 pounds.
- Hand-release push-ups. Between each repetition, hands must be briefly lifted off the ground. Minimum 10 in two minutes.
- Leg tuck. Grip an overhead bar, bend arms to raise body off the ground, then lift knees to touch elbows. Minimum 1.
- Power throw. Throw a 10-pound ball overhead and backward. Minimum 14.75 feet.
- Sprint/drag/carry. Ten 25-meter shuttles: two sprinting, two dragging a 90-pound sled, two running sideways, two running with a pair of 40-pound kettlebells, two sprinting. Requirement of 3 minutes or less.
- Two-mile run on flat outdoor course. Requirement 21 minutes or less.
Revised six-event test (2022): Five of the events have standards varying by age and/or sex.
- Dead lift a weight three times. Minimum 140 pounds for men, 120 pounds for women.
- Hand-release push-ups. Minimum 10 in two minutes.
- Plank. Minimum time varies by age and sex (see chart below).
- Power throw, sprint/drag/carry and two-mile run are the same events as in the 2019 version, but with varying standards, shown in the chart below. Soldiers with a doctor’s note can swim, bike or row instead of doing the run, or they can now do a 2½-mile walk.