Military Readiness

Which Military Branch is the Fattest? Overweight Troops Battle Obesity

Defense Department reports upward trend of weight gain among military branches

Health statistics released by the Pentagon show that the military is at its heaviest ever. The statistics reported by the Defense Department indicate an ever growing problem with obesity among each branch of service, leaving to question military readiness.

According to Military Times, the U.S. Army is the “fattest” branch, as of 2016. Up from 6.4 percent in 2011, the Army reported that 10.5 percent of soldiers do not meet height and weight requirements. It’s important to note here that the U.S. Army is the largest branch by personnel, so the percent of soldiers who do not meet regulations per capita is higher. The Air Force came in at second, reporting that 9 percent of the force is overweight, and the U.S. Navy reported that 5.9 percent of the entire fleet was overweight.

While the Marine Corps still holds the title of fittest, not fattest, at least “4,800 Marines appear to be heavier than regulations allow.” While that number is only 2.3 percent of the Marine Corps, it is still an increase from 1.7 percent reported five years earlier.

The statistics show that around 7.8 percent of the military is classified as clinically overweight, with a body mass index over 25. This means that about one in every 13 troops is overweight, a definite increase from 1.6 percent which was reported by the Defense Department in 2001.

Troops and Obesity
Image courtesy of Defense Department

How is military readiness affected by overweight troops?

The benefits of a physically fit military force are obviously apparent. Stamina, strength, endurance, shortened recovery times, all make for an effective machine. However, these statistics do not paint a clear picture when addressing how many service members are truly overweight or obese. The military has always relied on a Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator based on height and weight to determine if an individual is underweight, normal, overweight, or obese. A “healthy” BMI score is between 20 and 25, while 25 – 30 is overweight.

An inherent problem with the BMI calculator is that calculations are based solely on a persons height and weight, variables which do not completely determine an individuals physical capabilities. While there is no doubt that there are service members who are not mission capable due to their weight, other service members who may be heavily muscled are being classified right along truly overweight troops.

What kind of challenges do you think the military is facing in regards to overweight troops?
Let us know in the comments.


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