A Big Reason Behind Some Military Troops Being Unfit for Duty

Senior airman measures body fat.
Senior Airman Jessica Mead, 407th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron personal trainer, takes a body fat measurement using calipers. (Tech. Sgt. Francesca Popp/332d Air Expeditionary Wing)

With recent news of the military releasing service members for being overweight or​ 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 (1,600+). Having been in the military fitness writing business for more than a decade and served in the 1990s, 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 and​ 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 recruit's being overweight or​ obese is greater than a recruit failing to meet the high school education, criminal record and medical standards. 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 pounds) 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's 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 their 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/weight, body-fat and 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.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, Military.com has you covered. Subscribe to Military.com to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Show Full Article