This article appeared in the November | December issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
The armed forces used to be held up as the pinnacle of physical prowess — inspiration for athletes and everyday exercisers alike. "Be all that you can be" would eventually lead to "Army strong," we were told. But for the past decade, what has endured is the military's "too fat to fight" image.
I knew I had my work cut out for me when I set out to write this issue's military feature. The collective forces have invested and continue to invest heavily in programs and initiatives to improve soldiers' fitness levels. Yet as a coworker commented upon reading the first draft, "It seems like we're constantly writing articles about how the military is chasing its own fitness tail. Good lord, the number of task forces and study groups and they're still losing the battle of the bulge!"
So what's the problem? All of those task forces haven't been for naught — expanded programming has helped many soldiers to find a passion (or at least tolerance) for fitness, and there are still those who stand out as shining examples of fitness.
But what really came to light while working on the article was the other factors thwarting the effectiveness of these efforts. On a national level, our collective sedentary lifestyle has brought on an obesity epidemic. Poor nutrition, inadequate sleep patterns and other unhealthy choices are endemic. Physical education is being slashed from school budgets and class schedules. Today's recruits are simply ill-prepared for the rigors of military life.
Our military's fitness problem is really our nation's fitness problem. Whether you're working in municipal recreation, high school athletics or a private club, we're all working toward the same goal of improving health and fitness on a national level.
That also means we're collectively part of the military's solution. More than once in my conversations and research, today's troops were compared to elite athletes whose training is grounded in science — from correct movement techniques to injury recovery.
In analyzing the military's shortcomings, we find that both the fault and any hope for resolution lies with ourselves. Military strength starts on the home front with healthier Americans.
This article originally appeared in the November | December 2016 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Letter from the Editor: Fitness on the home front"