The United States Air Force has relaxed its weight standards for recruits, but they still have to pass a new body composition test that measures their height-to-waist ratio.

The new benchmark allows for higher body fat percentages than the previous standard, which was based on the recommendation of a team led by Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin. The change is intended to address the country’s growing obesity epidemic and the challenges it poses to military recruitment.

The American Council on Exercise considers individuals with body fat percentages over 25% for men and 32% for women to be obese. The previous Air Force benchmark fell into the range of “acceptable” fat, according to the organization. The new rules will permit 50 to 100 more people to join the Air Force each month.

However, weight isn’t the only problem plaguing military recruitment. Civilians’ job market and a lack of military interest pose significant barriers, according to school recruiters. Additionally, the Pentagon still restricts dozens of health issues, from eczema to diabetes to antidepressant use, that could disqualify recruits.

The Air Force’s fitness requirements will continue to apply, notwithstanding the weight limit. New airmen can expect to undergo the same annual fitness tests and standards as the rest of the military.

This month marks the start of the Air Force’s new body composition test, which measures a person’s height-to-waist ratio instead of their abdominal circumference. According to the Air Force, excess belly fat can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and musculoskeletal injuries.

To calculate the new ratio, enlisted members require measurement of the midpoint between the lowest rib and the top of the hip bone, where participants wrap a measuring tape around their waist. Then, the number is divided by the height in inches. 0.54 is the maximum ratio at which people are permitted to enlist.

Commanders can reprimand troops for missing repeated tests or appointments, but people won’t face punishment for at least a year if they do not pass. In the event that an airman is not in better health after twelve months, the service may send them to a formal fitness program or consider taking administrative action, including separation.

How to Calculate Your Height-to-Waist Ratio

To calculate your height-to-waist ratio, you will need to measure your height and waist circumference.

  • To measure your height, stand up straight with your feet together and measure from the top of your head to the floor.
  • To measure your waist circumference, wrap a measuring tape around your waist at the narrowest part, just above your hip bones.

Once you have your height and waist circumference measurements, divide your waist circumference by your height in inches.

For example, if you are 5’6″ tall and your waist circumference is 32 inches, your height-to-waist ratio would be .53.

What If I Don’t Meet the Height-to-Waist Ratio Requirements?

If you do not meet the height-to-waist ratio requirements, you may still be able to join the Air Force. However, you will need to pass a formal fitness program or meet other requirements, such as having a low body fat percentage.

If you are concerned about your height-to-waist ratio or other fitness requirements, you should contact a recruiter to discuss your options.