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Weight Problems Affecting the Military

America is in trouble. Whether it is the economy, civil rights issues or threat of terrorism, it is hard to find people that are optimistic of the path this country is going. As a personal trainer and a Navy veteran, one of the other issues that has me concerned is the obesity epidemic and how it is affecting the military.

Last year, the Military Times came out with an article discussing the growing obesity problem affecting the nation and the military. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about a third of the nation’s young adult population (18-24) is overweight, which means fewer potential recruits for the military, even if it is their true, heartfelt desire to serve.

However, that is not all. According to the article, “The military has also seen a 61 percent rise in obesity since 2002 among its active duty forces”. Think about that for a minute—over the course of the last fourteen years, about 6 out of every 10 members of the military has exceeded weight limit standards set by the Department of Defense.

Prior to my enlistment into the Navy, like many civilians, I had grown up with an assumption that everyone in the military was in spectacular health, possibly from watching war movies, like Rambo. When I reported to my first command, the first thing I realized was the astonishingly high number of men and women in uniform that did not fit the picture I held in my head of what a troop looks like. In addition to that, during the physical readiness tests (PRT), I was always one of the first to complete the mile and a half run, which was, essentially, the only part of the PRT where people were unable to cheat. Again, this was a shock to me because throughout my experience in sports through high school, I never considered myself as an exceptional athlete.

Now, that I have established myself as a personal trainer, this statistic of a 61% rise in obesity among our troops is deeply concerning and, also, very upsetting. In my opinion, from the day you swear in to serve in the military, you are making a commitment to serving your country to the best of your abilities, which includes adhering to physical readiness standards. The fact is that, while a person is in the military (active duty or reserves), he/she may be involved in a life or death situation where they must not only get themselves out of potentially dangerous settings, but depended upon to get others out, as well.

So, that is the problem, which means that there must be a solution. For those of you currently serving, sorry about the tough love, but facts should not be ignored. Therefore, taking command of your fitness level is nobody’s responsibility other than your own. If your command requires physical training exercises, know that that is the bare minimum. As a soldier, sailor, airman or marine, settling for the bare minimum should never be acceptable to you. Take note of your weaknesses and work to improve upon them; let’s say you were one of the last to complete your run during the last PRT, which means you need to focus on improving your running. If you are a prospective recruit, the same applies. And, if you are considering going into special operations, physical fitness must be a priority.

The obesity problem has been linked as a major contributor to the country’s number one killer, heart disease, for some time, and it has been getting worse. Not only has it affected our civilian population, but it has also been costing our men and women in uniform their careers. With greater emphasis to healthy living, this issue can be slowed and reversed, but it starts with each and every one of us.

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