Army recruits in training

As war threatens to engulf the world, the U.S. military is battling a fitness crisis at home.

Obese and “skinny fat” recruits are signing up to serve, but they can’t seem to pass the required fitness tests, according to the Daily Mail.

The COVID pandemic brought with it a wave of obesity among service members, and recruiters are dealing with a “growing number of would-be soldiers who are simply too large, too weak or both,” the outlet reports.

To accommodate the out-of-shape soldiers-to-be, fitness tests, including the “tape test,” are being redefined. Body fat is being calculated by newly introduced, state-of-the-art scanners. Special programs are in place for those troops who fail. 

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Generals are calling the fitness crisis a threat to national security.

According to “Unfit to Serve,” a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Just over 1 in 3 young adults aged 17-24 is too heavy to serve in our military. Among the young adults who meet weight requirements, only 3 in 4 report physical activity levels that prepare them for challenges in basic training.”

“Consequently, only 2 in 5 young adults are both weight-eligible and adequately active,” the CDC states.

“The military has experienced increasing difficulty in recruiting soldiers as a result of physical inactivity, obesity, and malnutrition among our nation’s youth,” said Mark Hertling, Lieutenant General, U.S. Army (Retired). “Not addressing these issues now will impact our future national security.”

“During the pandemic, 50.5% of soldiers in the cohort were classified as Overweight and 23.2% were classified as Obesity,” a study of data from the Military Health System Data Repository revealed.

Tracey Perez Koehlmoos, director of the Center for Health Services Research at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland, is one of the study’s authors.

“The Army and the other services need to focus on how to bring the forces back to fitness,” she stated, according to the Daily Mail.

Marine Corps Brigadier General Stephen Cheney said the situation is a “dramatic national security problem” and it’s getting “worse and worse and worse.”

Dr Karl E. Friedl, who, during his time as an Army officer, led research into fitness within the military, pointed to a new “skinny fat” trend.

“It’s guys who look good in skinny jeans, but they have high fat because there’s no muscle,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

“In fiscal year 2022, the Army failed to make its recruiting goal for the first time, falling short by 15,000 recruits, or a quarter of the requirement,” the Daily Mail reports. “That is largely because three-quarters of Americans aged 17 to 24 are not eligible for military service for several reasons, including extra weight.”

“Being overweight is the biggest individual disqualifier, affecting more than one in 10 potential recruits,” the outlet notes.

According to the CDC report, the military’s lack of fitness is not only a threat to national security, it’s costing the government big bucks.

“The Department of Defense (DOD), our nation’s largest employer, spends about $1.5 billion annually in obesity-related health care costs for current and former service members and their families, as well as costs to replace unfit personnel,” the CDC explains. “Lost workdays due to overweight and obesity for active-duty military personnel is 658,000 days per year. This costs the Department of Defense $103 million per year.”

“Physical inactivity is associated with costly basic training discharge across the services,” the CDC states.

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