New Army strategies focused on increased Soldier obesity

| April 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

Chanel S. Weaver
U.S. Army Public Health Command
Public Affairs Office

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — It is widely known and reported that the prevalence of obesity in the American population has been increasing over the past few years.

But the Army is different, right?

Soldiers are entrusted with fighting America’s wars, so they are in the best physical condition, right?


The 2008 Department of Defense Survey of Health-Related Behaviors reports that 13 percent of the Army is currently obese, according to body mass index classifications. That number is up from only 2 percent in 1995.

Although the rate of obesity in the Army is lower than the general population, the upward trend in obesity rates closely mirrors the general population.

Also, a 2011 Army public health assessment indicates that excess body fat in the Army is associated with injury and decreased performance, which can lead to problems maintaining unit readiness.

One in six Soldiers (16.4 percent) reports difficulty in meeting the Army weight and body fat standards.

Even those Soldiers who are actually fit enough to deploy can face challenges in maintaining a healthy weight while serving in the deployed environment.

A study by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine and the U.S. Army Public Health Command notes that, during a deployment, diverse mission requirements may prevent Soldiers from developing consistent exercise practices or participating in sports activities.

“Literature suggests that fitness decreases and fat mass increases during deployments,” said Dr. Theresa Jackson, public health scientist, U.S. Army Public Health Command.

Obesity can lead to serious health problems if left unchecked.

“In addition to heart disease, obesity can lead to breathing problems, arthritis, cancer, diabetes and, ultimately, premature death,” said Jackson.

One platform available to help Soldiers lose weight is the USAPHC-initiated Army Wellness Center, a program that is being stood up at 38 locations across the Army in the next five years. These centers serve as community resources, providing Soldiers with lifestyle tools to improve their health and well-being.

Among their standard services, these centers offer a variety of options to help Soldiers maintain healthy weight, including metabolic testing, basic weight management and nutrition education.

The Army also recently unveiled the Soldier Fueling Initiative, spearheaded by Initial Military Training Center of Excellence and the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence and supported by the USAPHC. Mandated in February 2011, this initiative targets Army personnel who are attending basic combat training and advanced individual training at 10 sites in the continental U.S.

The program uses color-coded labeling at these training sites to indicate the health benefit of foods and beverages. Items labeled red have low nutritional value, items that are labeled amber provide moderate nutritional content, and foods labeled with a green tag are the best options for consuming foods high in nutritional content.

While eating a balanced diet is important for Soldiers, another key to maintaining an optimal weight is engaging in regular physical activity.

“Consuming lower-fat and lower-calorie diets coupled with increased physical activity is the most effective tool to curb obesity,” said Jackson.

Weight Maintenance

For more information on maintaining a healthy weight, visit:

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Category: Army News Service, Community, Health

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