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US Army develops new body fat test as military obesity rates rise

The Army has developed a simplified method to asses a soldier's body fat as the military faces declined readiness due to obesity.
US Army develops new body fat test as military obesity rates rise
Posted at 11:23 AM, Jun 19, 2023

The U.S. Army has published new body fat assessment standards to provide a more consistent and accurate measure of troops' body fat and fitness.

The new standards were announced last week as data released earlier this year indicates the number of overweight and obese U.S. active-duty troops grew during the pandemic. 

In a study recently published by the World Health Organization, about 27% of soldiers at a healthy weight in 2019 became overweight by 2021. About 16% of troops who were merely overweight became obese during the same time frame. 

The overall number of troops with obesity grew from 18% to 23% from 2019 to 2021, the researchers noted. 

According to the Army, soldiers who fail the height and weight standards will need to use the new taping measures. Rather than taking measurements throughout the body, the new method will just tape troops' waist circumference. 

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If soldiers fail the test, they can request a supplemental assessment using a Bod Pod or similar device as an advanced way to measure body composition. 

“From the clinical application in the medical world, a waist circumference, abdominal around your belly button, is linked to long-term health outcomes,” Holly McClung, lead researcher for the body composition study at the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, told the Army News Service. “Not only are we looking at the performance of the soldier today, but the long-term health of the soldier in years to come within the Army.”

The American Security Project released a report late last year indicating that military readiness is declining in large part due to obesity. The report also noted the pandemic played a role in reducing the military’s readiness and increasing waistlines. 

The report said, “If current trends continue, the Armed Forces are unlikely to have the capacity to carry out all of the missions they are expected to.”

“For years, we have been committed to reducing body fat across the force,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston. “It’s one of the driving factors in supporting the Holistic Health and Fitness program, as well as one of the reasons to request a study on the Army Body Composition Program.”

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The Army said soldiers who score 540 or higher on the Army Combat Fitness Test, with a minimum of 80 points in each event, are exempt from the body fat assessment. 

The Army said soldiers with lower body fat percentages scored higher in fitness tests and had fewer "muscular skeletal" injuries. The Army said the changes will ensure the readiness of the force. 

The new standards also apply to National Guard and Reserve troops. 

Those who fail the standards will be given assistance for losing weight but could face a loss in rank or even discharge if they're unable to get in shape.

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