Over the years, the U.S. military has developed fitness standards to promote the safety and effectiveness of its personnel. Unfortunately, fewer people are meeting those standards today. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (2010; NBER Working Paper No. 16408), “the percent of civilian military-age men and women who satisfy current military enlistment standards for weight-for-height and percent body fat has fallen considerably.” The researchers stated that the number of people who are overweight and “overfat” roughly doubled for men and tripled for women from 1959–1962 to 2007–2008. Further, 11.7% of U.S. men and 34.65% of U.S. women now exceed the U.S. Army’s standard for body fat.

The study authors cautioned, “The implications of rising obesity for the U.S. military are especially acute given its recent difficulties in recruiting a sufficient number of new high-quality service members in the midst of combat operations overseas.”