Mission: Readiness, a nonprofit national security group is calling on schools, communities and state policy leaders to push the importance of physical activities and improved nutrition in schools in response to a growing number of students who aren’t able to serve in the military because of their weight.
Obesity rates and a lack of physical fitness among children in California poses a threat to national security, according to a report released Wednesday by the group whose members include a variety of retired military leaders. Weight problems have become a leading medical reason why young adults are not able to serve in the military.
About one in four young adults in California is too heavy to join the military, and one-third of ninth-graders lack basic aerobic capacity, according to the report. In Imperial County, 44 percent of ninth-graders are overweight or obese. Nearly half of the ninth-grade students have a poor aerobic capacity.
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The report is the first statewide one that Mission: Readiness has released in California, said state director Rito Guerra. The group is concerned that the prevalence of childhood obesity could have a long-term impact on national security as fewer people may be qualified to join the military.
A group of retired U.S. Army and Navy officials gave their perspectives on the issue during a teleconference Wednesday morning. Retired Adm. Leon A. “Bud” Edney said that America has an obesity problem. Young children have to recognize the importance of supervised physical fitness.
Today’s recruits have the largest body mass of any before them, he said. Those who aren’t fit have more strains and stress fractures.
It takes years, not months of basic training, to become physically fit, he said. Schools need to work to encourage their students to become more physical active.
Even at those schools that meet state standards for physical education, students may not be getting enough exercise, said retired Maj. Gen. James W. Comstock from San Diego. Schools have to play a role in getting students active.
It’s a shared responsibility, he said. He called on state leaders to push for more of an emphasis on physical education.
“We all need to work together to prevent our nation’s child obesity problem from becoming a national security issue,” he said.
Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-337-3441.