U.S. soldiers put on 30 pounds during the COVID-19 pandemic. Daniel Murillo, an Army Staff Sergeant, is now getting back into fighting fitness.
A 27-year-old man named Murillo reached for cookies and chips in the barracks at Fort Bragg in North Carolina due to early pandemic lockdowns, countless hours spent on his laptop, and increased stress. Murillo had no reason to exercise independently because gyms were closed, and organized exercise was prohibited.
Murillo, who is 5 feet 5 inches tall and may weigh up to 192 pounds, said, “I could see it.” “The outfit was more fitted.”
Not just Murillo but other service members also struggled with weight issues. According to recent studies, the rate of obesity in the American military increased during the epidemic. Between February 2019 and June 2021, approximately 10,000 active-duty soldiers in the Army developed obesity, raising the rate to about 25% of the soldiers evaluated. In the US, there were increases. Navy as well as the Marines.
Tracey Perez Koehlmoos, director of the Center for Health Services Research at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland, oversaw the study, said, “The Army and the other services need to concentrate on how to get the troops back to fitness.”
Armed forces personnel who are overweight or obese are more prone to suffer injuries and struggle under the physical demands of their job.
According to federal studies, the military loses more than 650,000 workdays yearly due to obesity, and the medical expenses for serving soldiers and their families surpass $1.5 billion yearly.
Koehlmoos predicted that more recent data won’t be accessible until later this year. But, there are no indications that the pattern is changing, highlighting persistent worries about the readiness of America’s fighting troops.
The persisting epidemic consequences underline the need for immediate action, according to retired Marine Corps Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, who co-authored a report on the implications of obesity on the U.S. military.
In a webinar presented by the nonprofit think tank American Security Project in November, Cheney claimed that “the numbers have not improved.” “They simply keep getting worse and worse,”
The Army missed its recruitment target for the first time in the fiscal year 2022 by 15,000 recruits or a quarter of the needed number.
This is partly because three-quarters of Americans between 17 and 24 are ineligible for military service due to several factors, including being overweight.
According to the survey, being overweight affects more than 1 in 10 potential recruits, making it the top personal disqualifier.
“It is disastrous. We have a serious national security issue, according to Cheney.
Overweight service members may find it challenging to maintain the fundamental fitness standards, which vary by military branch.
For instance, failing the Army Combat Fitness Test, a freshly upgraded test of aptitude, may land soldiers on probation or put an end to their military careers.
The Military Health System Data Repository is a vast repository where Koehlmoos and her team examined the medical information of all active duty Army soldiers.
They studied two-time frames: the pre-pandemic era, which ran from February 2019 to January 2020, and the crisis phase, which ran from September 2020 to June 2021.
Soldiers without complete records for either time or those expected in the year before or during the trial were eliminated.
Researchers discovered that approximately 27% of the roughly 200,000 troops still serving in the cohort gained weight after being in good health before the epidemic.
And over 16% of people who were overweight before became obese. About 18% of soldiers were fat before the epidemic; by 2021, that number had increased to 23%.
The body mass index, or BMI, is a weight and height measurement commonly used to classify people’s weight status.
A BMI between 18.5 and 25 is regarded as healthy, however, a BMI between 25 and 30 is considered overweight.
Obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or greater. Some scientists believe BMI is faulty since it ignores factors like muscle mass or underlying health.
In Murillo’s instance, his BMI was around 32 during the epidemic. The Army soldier from North Carolina recognized his need for assistance and sought a military nutritionist before beginning a rigorous workout regimen through the Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness, or H2F, program.
According to Murillo, we go on two 4- to 5-mile runs every week. “There were mornings when I wanted to give up, but I persevered.”
Murillo has been able to change the trajectory gradually over several months. Currently, Koehlmoos said, his BMI is just over 27, which is inside the limit set by the Defense Department.