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Military Troops Overweight /​ Unfit for Duty?

How To Lose Your Love Handles

With recent news of the military releasing service members for being overweight /​ obese and failing fitness standards, it comes as no surprise that as America grows in girth so does our military. In the past year, the military has released more soldiers at the highest rates in history (1600+). Having been in the military fitness writing business for over a decade and served in the 1990’s, this problem is not new. It is not a military problem — it is a NATIONAL problem of strategic importance, as evidenced in an article written several years ago: U.S. Troops Too Fat to Fight?

Not only are active duty /​ reserve members getting kicked out for failing fitness and body fat standards, but for the first time in history the number one reason for recruits not being able to join the military is failing height /​ weight and body fat standards. A recruits being overweight /​ obese is greater than a recruit failing to meet the high school education, criminal record, and medical standards. In fact, more than 50% of the requests I get as a fitness writer are from young men and women seeking a plan to lose weight (at least 30–50 lbs) in order to join the military. Just to give you an idea of what body fat percentage standards are getting people kicked out of the service, see the Men and Women’s Body Fat percentages below:

Body-​​Fat standards for Army Male Soldiers are:

  • Age 17–20 — 20%
  • Age 21–27 — 22%
  • Age 28–39 — 24%
  • Age 40+ — 26%

* For new recruits the Army allows up to +4% from the above standards

Body-​​Fat standards for Army Female Soldiers are:

  • Age 17–20 — 30%
  • Age 21–27 — 32%
  • Age 28–39 — 34%
  • Age 40+ — 36%

The story is not that Americans are overweight and obese — we have known this for decades. The story is that the number of overweight, active duty military members as well as military candidates is so elevated, that it is already a national defense weakness. The question is, “Can a military member do his/​her job properly without risk to themselves or others if they do not meet the physical fitness or body fat percentage standards.?”

During periods of military personnel draw-​​downs, any failure to meet written standards has greater consequences. This applies to height and weight standards /​ body fat standards, fitness standards, criminal record standards, medical qualification standards, and many others that military members are sworn to uphold for themselves in order to serve our country.

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Contributor

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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