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Military leaders have joined the call for investing in the walkability and bikeability of American neighborhoods. Mission: Readiness is an organization of 300 retired military leaders. A recent report called Still Too Fat to Fight and editorial outline their concerns about the impact of childhood obesity on national security. Because conventional transportation and community planning projects force residents to rely on school busses and automobiles to get to school and work, more than half of children and adults do not get the recommended amount of physical activity.
The report states that one in four Americans is too overweight to join the military. Of those successfully enlisted, a higher percentage of soldiers sustain sprains and stress fractures due to excess weight. More soldiers required evacuation from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan due to sprains and stress fractures than for combat injuries. The report goes on to say that the military spends $1 billion per year treating weight-related chronic conditions.
In Washington, Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) in Seattle and Spokane are staffed with personnel from all branches of the military. Their job is to ensure the qualifications of military applicants based on aptitude for military service, background screening and physical ability. The physical qualification varies for each branch of the military. The US Army website features a weight calculator so prospective recruits can verify if their weight meets guidelines. Recruiters report that many individuals are motivated to increase their fitness and lose weight in order to join the military.
To help future recruits achieve overall fitness, Mission: Readiness calls for multi-modal transportation and the funding of bicycle and pedestrian corridors in their home state of Pennsylvania. They assert that “policy makers can improve public health and, once again, ensure that our transportation system is fully supporting our future national security.”
Featured: June 2013
Prospective members of the military
James Kissee, Physical Activity Specialist, WA State Department of Health, 360-236-3623