Now many Army recruits are overweight and out of shape

I was setting up Lynnette's new Kindle (we are now a two-Kindle family) and in doing so looked at the one newspaper I subscribe to on what is now our old Kindle. I get the "New York Times" breaking news, updated three or four times a day. I scanned through the article list quickly, then I stopped and read one article carefully.

In the last few years the military has come to grips with our obesity epidemic. In 2010 the

optimal Army recruit

Optimal Army Recruit

Army has had to change its recruit physical training program. They aren't having the newbies do situps anymore; now they do yoga and Pilates. The underly rationale is partially to cut down on injuries and get soldiers ready for challenging terrain, actually it's because so many more of the youngsters who enter the service are overweight and out of shape.

I guess with all I've studied and read on the area that shouldn't have been surprising, but it still was. An Army report, "Too Fat to Fight" said the proportion of possible new recruits who couldn't pass the application physical went up by 70% between 1995 and 2008. Many of those who passed that exam still can't "cut the mustard" in physical activity like their predecessors. All this is being attributed to junk food, video games replacing outdoors sports and less time spent in physical education classes in schools.

Kids are drinking sugar-filled sodas and more sports drinks and not getting enough calcium and iron according to the three-star general who is in charge of Army recruit training. That plus the lack of serious exercise in their teens leads to a markedly increased percentage failing fitness testing and suffering injuries along the way.

I remember when one of my Air Force dieticians came up with a heart-healthy recruit diet trial; that was about 1995 or 1996. The youngsters actually liked the fruit "pizza" and other food items she substituted for what one senior officer on our base termed "the same old slop." We didn't totally change the worldwide menu for what we termed "chow halls," but we did add 300 heart-healthy items to the list of choices.

Now, roughly fifteen years later, the Army recruit diet is changing with milk vs. sodas, more green vegetables and lots less fried foods. It's about time, was my first thought. My second was, we've got to start earlier than the 18 to 24 year-old group.

It's time to set an example for your kids and grandkids and to pay attention to what they get to eat when they're first starting out. I suspect too many parents are letting very young children make bad choices in their diets and not setting limits on their sedentary activities. We need to steer our next generations for healthy eating habits and more physical activity.

Kids don't always listen to what you say, but they will notice what you do.

Before it's too late.

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