Most women take several weeks to fully recover from pregnancy and childbirth. This period is critical in not only the individual’s health but also their likelihood to be drafted. The Air Force Physical Training Test (AF PT Test) is a routine procedure of evaluating the physical performance of airmen and recruits. The test is aimed at evaluating a person’s fitness level and endurance, as a prerequisite for competency in the challenging livelihoods and work of soldiers.
Historically, contentions have spurred over the fairness of the test, particularly over certain groups of people. For instance, women recovering from pregnancy and childbirth are less likely to pass the force’s mandatory tests. The AF PT Test helps ensure that those who are in the Air Force continue to be fit for service. Women who give birth take longer to recover completely and complete successfully the AF PT Test because they are generally unfit.
Fundamentally, women who give birth do not meet the average aerobic and abdominal circumference components. One of the AF PT tests required is a 1.5-mile run aimed at determining the candidates’ aerobic performance (Muniz, 2019). The test is designed to determine the fitness of active airmen, cadets, training participants, and other officers. Also, pregnancy affects the abdominal circumference by altering the BMI and waist circumference (Kirkegaard et al., 2015).
This occurrence is associated with maternal fat distribution, which affects gestational weight gain (GWG). Therefore, women recovering from pregnancy and childbirth in the military are less likely to meet the fitness standards. According to the Air Force guidelines, active airmen must prove their fitness by undergoing the AF PT Test twice a year (Muniz, 2019). The score may result in more preliminary tests, especially if they are significantly declining. For women who give birth, keeping up with these standards may prove impractical.
Further, women who are recovering from childbirth are not muscularly fit. The AF PT Test includes one-minute push-ups and one-minute sit-ups to assess the muscular fitness of airmen or those looking to enlist (Muniz, 2019). Sit-ups may be harmful because they compromise the hip flexors by making them too strong or too tight, creating lower back discomfort. Research also indicates that muscular strength decreases considerably after childbirth (Miller et al., 2017; Bey et al., 2019).
Such decline is associated in part with the contraction of muscles, particularly during vaginal delivery. The abdominal pressure also contributes to the weakening of muscle strength (Hsu et al., 2018). As a result, such participants may not complete the AF PT Test. Notably, several measures are recommended to women recovering from childbirth to regain their strength. For instance, the progressive postpartum program is designed to help women recover their abdominal agility and fitness. However, women who utilize these programs usually take weeks—sometimes months—to fully recover.
In summary, women who give birth take longer to recover completely and complete successfully the AF PT Test due to an inherent body and muscle unfitness. The test mandates aerobics and abdominal circumference test, which, for most women, changes significantly after childbirth or pregnancy. Also, the Air Force requires a routine muscular fitness test that involves sit-ups and push-ups. Generally, the muscular makeup of women who give birth is compromised and may require a series of exercises to recover. Sit-ups are also not recommendable due to their potential harm to the spine. Therefore, the fitness standards of the AF PT Test are not ideal for women who give birth.
Bey, M. E., Marzilger, R., Hinkson, L., Arampatzis, A., & Legerlotz, K. (2019). Vastus lateralis architecture changes during pregnancy–a longitudinal study. Frontiers in physiology, 10, 1163. Web.
Hsu, Y., Hitchcock, R., Niederauer, S., Nygaard, I. E., Shaw, J. M., & Sheng, X. (2018). Variables affecting intra-abdominal pressure during lifting in the early post-partum period. Female pelvic medicine & reconstructive surgery, 24(4), 287. Web.
Kirkegaard, H., Nohr, E. A., Rasmussen, K. M., Stovring, H., Sørensen, T. I., Lewis, C. E., & Gunderson, E. P. (2015). Maternal prepregnancy waist circumference and BMI in relation to gestational weight gain and breastfeeding behavior: the CARDIA study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 102(2), 393-401. Web.
Miller, M. J., Kutcher, J., & Adams, K. L. (2017). Effect of pregnancy on performance of a standardized physical fitness test. Military Medicine, 182(11-12), e1859-e1863. Web.
Muniz, H. (2019). How to pass the Air Force PT Test. Prep Scholar. Web.