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OP-ED: U.S. ARMY & PHIT AMERICA RESPOND TO OBESITY NEWS

OP-ED: U.S. ARMY & PHIT AMERICA RESPOND TO OBESITY NEWS

National Defense Is At Risk If Physical Inactivity Trends Are Not Reversed

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently generated national headlines with a shocking report on health in America:

  1. More than 70% of Americans are either overweight or obese;
  2. Almost 40% of American adults are obese;
  3. Overall levels of activity in the U.S. have decreased in recent years.

While provocative and attention grabbing, the conversation must shift from the “byproduct” to the “cause” of America’s health crisis.  PHIT America (www.PHITAmerica.org), an organization dedicated to increasing the level of physical activity and health among all Americans, and the U.S. Army are sounding the alarm.  Unless we change the declining fitness among our youth, there will not enough qualified recruits for our military branches. 

A lack of physical activity amongst today's youth does cause significant challenges for the U.S. Army. Only 29 percent of youth meet the qualifications to join the military, and obesity is the leading disqualifier,” said Major General Jeffrey Snow, commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, Fort Knox, Kentucky.  "The U.S. Army requires a physically fit force in order to be successful. We need recruits who can successfully pass basic training and perform the requirements of their job in order to keep our country safe. Poor diet and a lack of physical activity can lead to injuries and other health issues that can take a soldier away from his/her duties.”

Recruits and soldiers who are not physically fit are costing the U.S. taxpayers a great deal of money every year.

"The military spends more than $1.5 billion annually treating obesity-related health conditions and replacing those discharged because they are unfit," said Major General (Ret.) Mike Repass, a member of Mission: Readiness and former Commanding General of U.S. Army Special Forces Command. "It takes years, not months, to build a strong, healthy body and the foundation for good fitness is laid in childhood and young adulthood. That is why the retired admirals and generals of Mission: Readiness strongly support efforts to get more opportunities for physical activity in schools and communities, and to provide children with healthy school meals."

The overall national figure of 81.7 million physically inactive Americans is daunting, but reversible.  Exercise and physical activity must become a way of life with children and adolescents, beginning with a regular diet of P.E. and physical activity breaks during the school day.

PHIT America knows exactly what has caused these issues and has the solutions, too.

“Let’s be real. When you take physical education out of our schools and parents allow their child to be so sedentary, this leads to health and fitness issues that are significant,” stated Jim Baugh, Founder of PHIT America.  “In America, 48% of all high schools have no P.E. The average budget for physical education in schools is $764 per year -- for an entire school. Electronic devices are keeping kids sedentary. And, if you don’t believe it is hurting kids’ health and fitness and the military’s ability to be ‘military ready’, just look at a recent global study comparing children’s fitness levels. The U.S. should be embarrassed by the findings. I am.”

In a recent study of global fitness, conducted by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, U.S. kids ranked 47th out of 50 countries in global fitness. This is not surprising because in a separate study by the Physical Activity Council, the percentage of U.S. children who are physically active just three times a week in fitness-related activities has dropped from nearly 29% to 24.8% in the last year.  Suffice it to say, American children are increasingly more physically inactive.

“We have to ‘go where the kids are,’ which is in the schools,” added Baugh.  “Changes must be made to school curriculums to get them more physically active. And, when schools incorporate physical activity breaks into the daily class schedule, we find these students do better in school, too!  A healthy body leads to a healthy mind – always has and always will.”

This issue of emphasizing P.E. and physical activity sessions in schools – before school, during school, or after school -- is a major goal of PHIT America.  Mission:  Readiness and members of the U.S. medical community agree with PHIT America’s stance on P.E. for all students in all grades in all U.S. schools. 

“Getting students physically active during the school day is an absolute necessity for this country’s future and overall security,” continued Major General (Ret.) Repass.

“For children, the foundation of an activity led lifestyle starts with daily physical education in our schools,” stated Dr. Tim Church, Adjunct Professor of Pennington Biomedical, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

“Being physically active is a way of life,” agreed Dr. Carrie Jaworski, Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship Director, North Shore University Health System, Glenview, Illinois.  “We as physicians need to instill this belief in our youngest of patients and nurture throughout their lives.  There is no better option to good health.”