Action to Prevent ‘Growing’ Problem
AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFPN) — It was just two months ago when
I sat in my friend’s living room sharing pictures from
her past. It was her high school year book, 1967, and something
very striking caught my eye.
all of you were skinny!”
friend laughed, and staring at the picture responded, “You
are right, I had not thought or noticed it.” Not one
adolescent in her senior class appeared overweight.
enjoying and sharing a few snap shots of her past, we said
our goodbyes and I left to pick up my children from school.
Arriving at their high school with my friend’s yearbook
pictures still vivid in my mind, I was shocked to observe that
many of the children walking out of school, gathering by the
bus stop, walking to their cars or waiting for a ride, were
overweight. These adolescents represent the pool of potential
recruits comprising the future of our armed forces.
not uncommon for adults to hear and even say, “When I
was a kid, I could eat anything and not gain a pound.” Yet
as adults it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain an
an alarming fact that the average American adult gains at least
2 pounds per year over his or her lifetime. This means that
a hypothetical 18-year-old weighing 150 pounds could weigh
274 pounds by age 80, almost double his or her weight.
this example is overly simplistic, it does illustrate a disturbing
trend about the declining health of our country’s population.
Perhaps even more concerning, we are not just maturing toward
obesity, but obesity is increasing among our children.
obesity epidemic is a public health concern and is being increasingly
publicized in the media and by our military leaders. A recent
article published by the Associated Press, “Are U.S.
Troops Too Fat to Fight?,” illustrates the overweight
trends of the active and reserve components as well as the
weight issues plaguing new accessions into military service.
article claims that 20 percent of all male recruits and 40
percent of female recruits are too heavy to enter the military.
So, recruits are being told to lose weight and reapply.
from the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine
indicates that 58.4 percent of Soldiers, age 21 and older,
are overweight by federal standards, and 36.5 percent of Soldiers
age 20 and younger do not meet the Body Mass Index standard.
epidemic will certainly have a negative impact not only on
individuals, but on society as a whole. Besides the increased
risk for numerous chronic diseases and their socioeconomic
impact on the nation, the inability to maintain a fit force
could add a heavy burden to the military ranks.
Jan. 1, 2004, then Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper
implemented the Fit to Fight Program. This program is not just
designed to pass an annual physical fitness test, but to change
the culture of the Air Force and make fitness part of an Airman’s
lifestyle. Since implementation, commanders and senior NCOs,
who play a key role in enforcing the new fitness standards
and embracing this change in culture, have overseen an approximate
80-percent pass rate compared to 69 percent before implementation
you might ask yourself, “what can I do to stop the trend?” It
is time for everyone to get involved. We have to lead our troops
to a healthier, fit lifestyle. All of us have to sell exercise
and good diet to our Airmen. This will ensure the U.S. military
maintains its legacy as the fastest, leanest and most powerful
military in the world.