army trainingWhat's the number-one reason why the Army rejects recruits? It's not for any misdeed, exactly. It's because of obesity. In the first 10 months of this year alone, the Army had to reject 1,625 soldiers because they couldn't meet the fitness standards. A whole 5.3 percent of the troops (86,186 people) were declared overweight or obese in 2010. And military leaders have been warning that Americans' battle of the waistline may be an issue of national security.

I can't imagine how humiliating it would feel to be rejected from the Army because of your weight. That must feel terrible. Is there really a health crisis in the Army, or is this more about budget cuts? If it's both, what can people do about it?

The Army evaluates its troops based on a strength and endurance tests and based on their height and weight measurements. And growing numbers of soldiers are struggling with that second evaluation. Some blame it on our sedentary American lifestyle. But some soldiers say they're gaining weight after injuries suffered in battle. Whether it's a broken knee or antidepressants to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, I think it's fair to say it may not be all your fault if you're cut from the Army due to your weight.

And then there's the issue of budget cuts. The Army has to cut tens of thousands of troops from the force in the next few years. So commanders are being told to take those fitness tests more seriously. If anything, the military seems to lower its health standards during the height of war -- in practice, anyway -- because it can't afford to be picky. But I wonder if that puts less-healthy troops at higher risk for injury? And ... isn't that backwards? Shouldn't troops be more fit during times of war than during relatively peaceful times?!?

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden's initiative Joining Forces (which helps bring support to military families) has said it will be focusing more on the health of troops this year and next. Is it going to be Let's Move meets Joining Forces? Probably not -- hopefully they'll focus on the specific health challenges soldiers have been talking about. If the Army still has to cut troops, maybe we'll get to the point where they have to find other reasons to reject soldiers.

Are you worried about soldiers being cut because they're not physically fit?

 

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