Obesity Putting Nation’s Security at Risk?

military overweightThis is a guest post by Dr. Helmuth Billy of Dr. Billy Bariatrics.

Who would have thought that the obesity epidemic that persists in our country has reached the point where our nation’s security is now at risk? The 2011 report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health looks at the problem Obesity has caused in the United states and explores ways that we as a nation can raise awareness, drive action, identify solutions and reverse the dangerous epidemic we face.

One of the areas that the researchers looked at was the effect obesity has had on our ability to sustain a military capable of meeting the needs of our armed forces. The results were worrisome as now nearly a third of all Americans ages 17-24 are too heavy to join the military. 66.7% of our active duty military are overweight, another 12% are actually obese leaving only 22% of our military meeting weight standards.

The solution has been to implement an emphasis on physical fitness and overhauling food choices available to members of our armed forces. Fort Benning Georgia has eliminated certain foods which were traditionally available on base. Pizza and Donuts and other fast foods are quickly disappearing and being replaced by lower calorie foods. Improved labeling systems and awareness of calories consumed has also taken hold.

For the first time the Elite Special Operations branch of the US Navy has struggled to find qualified candidates. Of those who fail to qualify many don’t pass the physical fitness portion of their qualifying exam. Obesity plays a roll as increasingly poor levels of fitness have reached those who are in our military. 95% of sailors trying to join the special operations teams fail the swimming portion of the test. The solution? The Navy joined forces with the YMCA and created a “pre-boot camp” program to help recruits before their test. Of the 5000 recruits who have used the fitness program, more than 85% have passed the fitness portion compared to less than 50% of those not participating in the program.

The military is not alone in their concern with obesity and how it affects our countries future. Police and Fire report nationwide that potential recruits are overweight and have trouble passing fitness requirements.

Exercise and improved food choices are critical components of achieving and maintaining health. Not only our military but also police and fire departments have intensified the importance of regular exercise programs in their departments increasing physical fitness training and implementing mandatory exercise from once a week to five times a week. At the same time these departments have eliminated carbohydrate-rich menus, and switched to menus that include more protein and vegetables. It is a trend that is relatively easy to implement and achieves results which surprise everyone. It’s a straightforward change, and one that can be implemented in everyone’s life to reduce the incidence of obesity.

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