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The Urgent Need For National Military Fitness & Wellness Month

Emilee White

National Military Fitness and Wellness Month, founded by Master Sgt. Rob Wilkins, USAF, Ret., began as a way to increase mental as well as physical health within the military community. But why was there a need for this initiative?

According to the Council For A Strong America, 71 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 were disqualified from serving their country in 2017, and unfortunately, the situation has only gotten worse. Just five years later, it was determined that 77 percent of American young adults are unqualified to serve with 11 percent being because they are, literally, unfit.

“Physical health challenges, including obesity, prevent far too many young Americans from reaching their dreams. For many young people, those dreams include serving their country in uniform,” said Mission: Readiness member Lieutenant General Norm Seip, U.S. Air Force, Ret. on strongnation.org. “These new ineligibility figures are a painful reminder of the urgency around making sure that our young people have the tools they need to grow up healthy and prepared for whatever career path they choose, including military service if they so desire. Investments that bolster the health and nutrition of our children are critical to national security and the future strength of our country.”

Obesity isn’t just a civilian issue. A 2018 study from the Journal of Public Health Management & Practice (JPHMP) found that obesity, along with a lack of physical exercise, contributes to an alarmingly high number of injuries among soldiers in basic training. According to the U.S. Army, 17 percent of its active duty soldiers are overweight while 25 percent of Reserve and National Guard service members suffer from obesity.

“With an increasing number of military personnel and family members facing medical challenges caused by physical inactivity and poor diets, National Military Fitness and Wellness Month is the ideal time to make fitness a priority,” Wilkins, a member of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition and the American Legion Wellness Advisory Panel, said.

The JPHMP study also explained, “Each Recruit lost to attrition cost the government $31,000,” as reported by USA Today. Because of the high volume of obesity-related problems, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) currently spends roughly $8.1 billion on healthcare costs with $3.7 billion going directly to musculoskeletal issues each year, which obese service members are 33 percent more likely to suffer from. Additionally, the DoD spends $1.8 billion and $1.1 billion on tobacco and alcohol misuse-related health issues, respectively. 

“Basic training lasts weeks, but building strong troops takes years,” said General Richard B. Myers, U.S. Air Force, 15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ret., on strongnation.org. “Encouraging healthy lifestyles early in life will help our nation prepare for future challenges.”

That’s why for National Military Fitness and Wellness Month, Wilkins, with the help of President of Muscle & Fitness (M&F), Dan Soloman and Director of Media Development for M&F Frank Sepe, is raising awareness while encouraging physical activity and nutrition for the military community and the United States.

 For more information on National Military Fitness and Wellness Month and what you can do to help, visit Muscle & Fitness. A healthy nation is a strong nation.

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