Sailors who score high on fitness may only have to take one physical readiness test next year instead of the two the Navy currently requires, provided those sailors are within body fat standards.

A new rule change announced Monday will allow sailors who score an overall "excellent low" or better on the PRT — with no single event lower than a "good low" — to skip the fitness portion of the test for the subsequent cycle. The new rules also indicate one alternate cardio test option will be eliminated and there will be changes to fitness rules for women returning from maternity leave.  

"I want sailors to know we've heard them," said Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke said in Monday's press release.

"Many Sailors work hard to maintain high levels of physical fitness year-round and I believe this provides an incentive to continue to excel. This effort is aimed at both incentivizing physical fitness and also reducing administrative distractions throughout the Fleet."

Though the change won't officially go into effect until Jan. 1, 2018, netting a qualifying score on this fall's test will still allow sailors to skip the exercise portion of the Spring 2018 cycle.

What officials won't waive are body composition standards. To even be eligible for the single-test qualification, sailors must also pass the Body Composition Assessment portion. This means that during an off cycle, sailors will still have to step on the scale. And if body-fat standards aren't met, the PRT exemption will be voided. 

The theory behind the change is that those who perform well on their PRT and are also in BCA standards are being rewarded for the behavior and initiative, Navy officials told Navy Times.

The Navy message released Monday also announced that sailors who are new mothers will now be exempt from participating in any part of the Navy's Physical Fitness Assessment for six months following a return from maternity leave. The exemption, which will include both the physical fitness test and body composition assessment, is designed to allow more time for new mothers to get back to the Navy's fitness standards.  

The Navy recently increased the length of permitted maternity leave to 84 days following the birth of a child.  

"We want to ensure our sailors have adequate time to recover and succeed post pregnancy," said Burke. "This extended time will help sailors return to fitness levels and standards in a safe and healthy way."

Additionally, for the four percent of sailors who choose to do the cardio portion of the PRT on an elliptical trainer, change is coming. This fall will be the last cycle an elliptical can be used as an alternative to the 1.5-mile run. The remaining alternative options will be limited to stationary bikes — depending on a commanding officer's authorization.

This decision, officials say, was partially based on the low number of sailors choosing the elliptical option, but also due to the money required to maintain PRT-compliant elliptical machines — money that officials would rather use to upgrade existing gym equipment for everyone to enjoy.

Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.

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