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Get the score, skip the tape: This fitness score waives body fat test

Army Sgt. Jared Simmons, a public affairs mass communications non-commissioned officer, with the 19th Public Affairs Detachment, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, Division Artillery, 1st Infantry Division, performs the hand-release pushup during an Army Combat Fitness Test on Dec. 8, 2022, on Fort Riley, Kansas. (Pfc. Mackenzie Striker/Army)

It’s official, the Army issued a directive Thursday that exempts soldiers who score a 540 or higher on the Army Combat Fitness Test from body fat assessment.

“When our people are ready, the Army is ready,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston. “As Soldiers leverage all domains of Holistic Health and Fitness and strive to reach their maximum potential, our policies should encourage their progress, not constrain it.”

But soldiers can’t simply max out the deadlift and run, they’ve got to show a balanced fitness portfolio. They must hit that 540 score with at least 80 points per category. Doing the math, a soldier also can’t only do 80 points each and make that score, so some areas must show higher scores to reach the exemption threshold.


The directive followed a rollout of this and potentially other changes to body composition measures in the Army announced last week.

Grinston and others talked with media outlets on March 8 and held a virtual town hall online on March 9 with two of the Army Comprehensive Body Composition Study authors who evaluated nearly 2,700 soldiers between October 2021 and July 2022 to determine the accuracy of the traditional tape test and other body composition measurement methods.

Holly L. McClung, a nutritional physiologist, and Kathryn M. Taylor, a research epidemiologist, both study authors, found that 90 percent of soldiers evaluated first on height and weight standards accurately determine whether the soldier exceeds standards and requires a tape test.

Recommendations to Army senior leaders would not change the current height-weight and body fat percentage standards but might put a few more soldiers on the overweight list. They’ve recommended a single point measure of the waist for both male and female soldiers. The neck and hip measurements would be cut, if approved.

The waist measurement, done at the belly button, along with factoring in weight from the height-weight measure, actually means more soldiers are likely to require body composition monitoring, researchers said.

Unless they score a 540 or higher.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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