Weight limits for female soldiers have changed to incorporate current research regarding differences between male and female body types.

The change allows most females to weigh 5 to 19 pounds more under Army Regulation 600-9, “The Army Weight Control Program,” which establishes guidance for body-fat standards within the Army.

The previous version of the regulation was last updated 17 years ago.

“Training NCOs were telling us they had been needlessly taping female Soldiers,” said Hank Minitrez, public affairs officer for the Army G-1 Human Resources Policy Directorate. “It seems women were failing the weight portion of the test, but they were well under the maximum body-fat percentage allowed for their age group. In fact, we found that more than half of all female Soldiers who were taped did not need to be.”

A team of Army and civilian physicians and scientists was appointed to find a better way to measure body fat in women, who carry weight differently than males, Minitrez said.

“We took their findings and changed the screening weight table for female Soldiers. The screening table weight is the maximum you can weigh before you have to be taped or tested for body-fat percentage,” he said.

Instead of being taped at the wrist, forearm, neck and hips, females will now be taped around the abdomen, neck and hips.

“Measuring the abdomen will give a more accurate portrayal of a female Soldier’s body-fat percentage,” Minitrez said. “We don’t want fat Soldiers, we want fit Soldiers. The tape test is still going to help determine body-fat and fitness levels compared to lean muscle-mass levels.”

Repercussions for Soldiers failing to meet Army weight standards remain unchanged. They will still be enrolled in the Army Weight Control Program, through which Soldiers seek counseling from a nutritionist on eating properly and incorporating exercise into their daily routines. They must also receive a blood test from their local military treatment facility to rule out medical problems.

Enrollment in the program does not prohibit a Soldier from deployment, but it does prevent positive actions such as awards or attendance at professional development schools.

“The program is designed to assist Soldiers in creating a healthy, fit lifestyle that the Army requires in a time of war,” Minitrez said. “We want all of our Soldiers to be Army Strong.”

The revised AR 600-9 was published Sept. 1 and implemented Oct. 2, but Army leaders decided to give active-duty and reserve-component Soldiers a six-month transitional period. March 31 is the mandatory effective date.

“This revision didn’t happen overnight,” Minitrez said. “Researchers have been working for at least a decade to determine if current systems of measuring body fat were the best systems out there. Research is always ongoing and the Army, just like any other agency, has to keep evolving and using the latest data available – whether it’s with equipment, technology or in this case, medicine.”