Obesity is one of the most pressing health and lifestyle issues facing Americans today, so much so that even the Army is affected. A new study published Wednesday says that at a time of rising obesity in the U.S. today, it is increasingly becoming more challenging for the U.S. Army to find physical fit recruits especially in the South.
The South traditionally draws a high percentage of soldiers. The study, undertaken by researchers at The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, S.C., concludes that Army recruits from Southern states are generally in poorer condition than those from other parts of the country.
Daniel Bornstein, the researcher who led the study, shares: “This has a real impact on national security.”
The fact that the South may be falling behind the rest of the country suggests the regional differences may be a function of government policy influencing fitness. The study also found that “some of the greatest public health achievements have come as the result of state-level policy change.”
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Lousiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia make up the eleven states who had the highest rates of recruits who become injured during basic training.
Such results also reflect trends in the country where Southern states generally also happen to have higher obesity rates. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adult obesity is 35% or higher in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia.
Lack of physical fitness and state of obesity are factors that contribute to a higher injury rate among soldiers in basic training. Such has an impact on government resources and taxpayers’ money as each recruit lost to attrition costs the government $31,000, as the study reveals.
The study arrived at its findings by examining recruits who entered the Army between 2010 and 2013 and looked at initial physical tests, including timed runs, and injury rates after recruits get to basic training.
Since the time of World War II, it has always been a struggle for the Army to find physically fit recruits. These days, it’s even getting harder, from the 50% of young people qualified to join the Army during World War II, now it has dropped to 23%.
The recommendation is that while the issue is definitely a military concern, the military can not solve fitness problem of its recruits alone. It would need the help of the society. The study also cited bringing physical education back to schools or improving infrastructure, such as sidewalks, to encourage walking.