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Obesity in Southern states is a threat to national security, study finds

Male and female soldiers from the South are up to 28 percent more likely to be injured

by Alexa Liautaud
Jan 19 2018, 2:00am

The U.S. Army is recruiting the most personnel from the least fit states — and it’s impacting national security.

Army recruits from Southern states are significantly less in shape than recruits from other parts of the country, a new study released this month found, and the disparity is becoming “disproportionately burdensome” on national security.

Still, these Southern states — including, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas — remain the Army’s top recruiting region.

They’re also suffering from public health issues, like high obesity rates, that are resulting in their recruits not being physically ready for combat.

Male and female soldiers from these states were up to 28 percent more likely to be injured, the study found, costing the Department of Defense an estimated $31,000 per recruit.

“Results from this study demonstrate how certain states, previously identified for their disproportionate public health burden are also disproportionately burdensome for military readiness and national security,” the study notes.

The study focused on people recruited to the Army between 2010 and 2013, and examined their physical fitness tests.

“Physical activity is largely determined by the environments in which people are raised, live, play,” said Dr. Daniel Bornstein. “It is our hope that the states identified through this analysis, along with federal entities, work to establish policies and environments proven to support physically active lifestyles. If such actions were taken, physical fitness levels among residents of these states would rise and each state’s disproportionate burden on military readiness and public health could be minimized.”

Meanwhile, the recruiting pool for U.S. military is getting smaller. Roughly 27 percent of Americans 17 to 24 years old are too overweight to serve, the report adds, with obesity being the second most frequent disqualifying medical condition between 2010 and 2014.