Thomas Gallatin / November 28, 2022

Unfitness: An Existential Threat to National Security

One of the biggest factors leading to the U.S. military struggling to meet recruitment goals has to do with the obesity of America’s youth.

The problem of obesity across America has been a growing trend observed for several decades. To put it bluntly, America as a whole has been getting fatter, and not just during the days between Thanksgiving and that new diet in January.

Back in 1960, the number of American adults classified as obese and extremely obese represented less than 15% of the population. Fast-forward to 2016, and the data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that nearly 40% of Americans classify as obese.

This has been a long and troubling trend, which has most often been discussed in relation to the impact on Americans’ general health, especially with the implementation of ObamaCare and the continuing creep toward single-payer healthcare. The more taxpayers pay for healthcare, the more this all matters from a fiscal standpoint.

However, another significantly negative result from America’s obesity epidemic is less obvious, but its implications are just as concerning. America’s obesity epidemic is not merely a problem plaguing adults, but increasingly it is a problem for America’s youth. This has not just life-long health affects but national security implications.

This past fiscal year, the U.S. Army fell short of recruitment goals by a whopping 25%, or 15,000 soldiers. The other U.S. military branches, while meeting their recruitment goals, still observed a similar troubling trend, a dwindling pool of fit youth.

Back in 2014, it was found that just 29% of Americans met military fitness requirements to serve. That fitness percentage has now dropped to 23%, and most of this decrease has to do with America’s increasing obesity rates.

“In 2010, 30% of adults between 18 and 39 suffered from obesity,” observes Thomas Spoehr, director of the Center for National Defense at The Heritage Foundation. “In 2020, just 10 years later, that statistic had skyrocketed to 36.3% and is expected to continue to rise to 43% by 2030. With this tragic trend comes increases in heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, joint damage, and other serious ailments.”

Put simply, America’s obesity crisis is significantly diminishing our nation’s future combat readiness on a scale. Currently, 21% of American youth between the ages of 12 and 19 are obese. Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that only a quarter of school-age youth meet the recommended minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity a day. As a result more young Americans are suffering from preventable diseases such as type two diabetes than ever before.

Making matters worse has been the woke “body positivity” movement, which decries any criticism of obesity as “body shaming” and effectively denies the severe health risks associated with obesity.

Thankfully, for the vast majority of the American public, obesity can be reversed. It does take work and discipline, but the benefits far outweigh (no pun intended) the initial discomfort of exercise and eating less.

So, after having enjoyed this Thanksgiving holiday season, take time to enjoy getting out for a walk. And if you have younger children at home, encourage them to go outside and play. In a very real sense, America’s nation security depends upon it.

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