A study was released this year by Mission: Readiness, a nonpartisan national organization consisting of more than 450 retired generals and admirals advocating for investing in America’s children. The organization operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit Council for a Strong America.
The report, entitled “Retreat Is Not An Option: Healthier school meals protect our children and our country,” relays data regarding obesity in America.
Data in the report show how obesity has become more and more common among adults in our country over the last 25 years. The seasoned military leaders at Mission: Readiness believe that the best way to combat obesity in adults is to initiate good behaviors in school-aged children. The group contends that doing so will not only improve the overall health of future American adults, but could also positively impact the effectiveness of our military.
Active-duty service members must pass physical fitness tests and weigh-ins, at least twice each year. If a service member fails three fitness tests in a four year period, they are subjected to separation or denied reenlistment. Each branch of the armed forces has had to discharge thousands of service members due to body fat and physical fitness standards. In many cases, their branch has invested a lot of resources into training them for their military occupation, and their lack of physical performance has ended up costing the military money.
Over the last few decades, the number of overweight service members has increased significantly. According to data from the most recent Defense Department health survey, the Army weighed in with nearly 16% of its soldiers overweight. The Navy had 15% of sailors overweight. The Marine Corps was the most fit group, with only 5% of their members listed as overweight.
Failing one test or weigh-in usually serves as a warning for service members to get into better shape. But more often than you would think, service members go on crash diets in the weeks before the tests and put the weight back on afterwards.
Studies have shown that overweight service members were 1.5 times more likely to be injured than their more-fit counterparts. Additionally, injures can be me made worse and take longer to recover from in overweight individuals.
The former military leaders at Mission: Readiness are hoping that by instilling better dietary and exercise habits in children, obesity can be curtailed in the future. The group claims that 70% of Americans aged 17-24 would not be able eligible to enlist in the military due to their weight.
The group recently presented their report to Congress in an attempt to promote healthier foods in schools.
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Military Connection: Group Fights Obesity in U.S. By Debbie Gregory