The Hill

One-Third Of Young Americans Are Too Fat To Join Military; Active Duty Forces Also Gaining Weight

Too Fat for Military
Research has shown that nearly one-third of all young Americans are too fat to join the military. DVIDSHUB CC BY 2.0

Being in the military is serious business. You have to be in tip-top shape, mentally, physically, and emotionally. That means having enough stamina and strength to carry a 50-pound gear bag 20 miles. But according to a new report by a slew of retired military generals, one out of three young people in America are too fat to be in the military.

Mission: Readiness (Military Leaders for Kids), a nonprofit, non-partisan group, promotes healthy school lunches in Kansas and across the nation. Using statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the group cites that 29 percent of Kansas teenagers are overweight, and about a third of American children and teenagers are overweight or obese. The report also mentions that 62 percent of all adolescents do not get the recommended hour of daily exercise.

“We think a more healthy lifestyle over the long term will have significant impacts on both the military posture — those available to get into the military — and across our society as a whole from a medical perspective,” retired Brigadier Gen. John Schmader told The Associated Press.

Obesity is one of the leading causes of military disqualification in people aged 17 to 24, which is basically the age range that the military is looking to recruit from. Other disqualifiers are lack of adequate education, a criminal history, or drug use.

The military has also noticed that, since 2002, there has been a 61 percent increase in obesity among its active ranks. This has driven up obesity related health care costs and the cost of replacing those military members who are unfit for duty.

Nearly all of the schools in Kansas have adopted the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which adds healthier foods to school lunch menus. While the act added fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to lunches, it doesn’t address the fact that many of the teens in Kansas and the rest of the country are too overweight or obese for the military.

So what does it take to be physically fit enough to join the military? Well, that depends on what branch you’re looking to sign up with. Many of the branches have the same sort basic guidelines. You need to be able to run at least two miles, do a certain number of pushups, pullups, and situps. And that’s just the basic fitness test.

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