Unhealthy and Unprepared
National security depends on promoting healthy lifestyles from an early age
Obesity has long threatened our nation’s health; as the epidemic grows, obesity is posing a threat to our nation’s security as well. In the United States, 71 percent of young people between the ages of 17 and 24 do not qualify for military service, and obesity disqualifies 31 percent of youth from serving if they so choose. This year, the Army fell short of its recruiting goal for the first time since 2005, and these recruiting challenges will continue unless measures are taken to encourage a healthy lifestyle beginning at a young age.
While nearly one-third of 17-to-24-year olds are too overweight to qualify for military service, the problem starts much earlier. Children as young as two are experiencing rising obesity rates, which increase with age. Currently, 42 percent of teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are overweight. These alarming numbers demonstrate the need for obesity prevention beginning very early in life and continuing through high school and beyond.
This report discusses how focusing on nutrition and physical activity from a young age can help children grow up to be healthy and prepared for any career that they choose. Good nutrition and physical activity are crucial components to ensure that children grow up healthy, and that those who are willing to serve are prepared to meet the military’s eligibility requirements. Parents and educators can teach healthy eating and exercise habits, while state and federal policymakers must continue to prioritize programs that promote nutrition and encourage physical activity from an early age.
Basic training lasts weeks, but building strong troops takes years. Encouraging healthy lifestyles early in life will help our nation prepare for future challenges.
General (Ret.) Richard B. Myers, U.S. Air Force, 15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
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