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Assessing Fitness for Military Enlistment: Physical, Medical, and Mental Health Standards
height. Carrying is usually associated with lifting. A soldier is generally expected to lift objects weighing as much as 50 kg single-handedly, with heavier objects lifted by more than one individual. In heavy lifting jobs, 85 to 200 pound objects may be lifted and carried up to 200 yards by a single individual. Packs in excess of 100 pounds and other heavy loads may be lifted and carried for several miles.
A case is made by Harman and Frykman-Scott that loaded performance tests are the best measures of military task performance and that larger individuals with more lean body mass and more fat mass perform better on these tasks. They found a higher correlation between load carriage performance and lean body mass than between load carriage and percentage of body fat. Based on their results, they conclude that it is more important to screen for lean body mass than for body fat. According to Friedl (2004), today’s soldiers are heavier than before, “reflecting both increased muscle and fat components.” They are also healthier and more fit than ever before.
Weight Reduction and Maintenance
Each Service provides general guidance on weight management programs, which differ from one installation to another. According to a report on weight management by the Institute of Medicine (2003), the Services have done little with regard to medical and physiological research on weight loss and maintenance, and there is essentially no long-term follow-up beyond six months to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs. Enlisted personnel who exceed weight guidelines are required to participate in weight loss and maintenance programs. Some of the programs have weight loss requirements, and some have behavioral and nutrition counseling.
The Army offers weight control counseling through physical fitness trainers and operates several hospital-based weight loss and weight maintenance programs overseen by physicians (Army Regulation AR 600-9). The Marine Corps program is similar to the Army program and includes diet counseling. The Navy provides a six-month program that is managed by a command-trained physical fitness coordinator and includes mandatory physical exercise. It provides a self-study guide for nutrition and weight control. The Air Force program is centrally controlled and includes behavioral and dietary counseling by medical personnel as well as an exercise program. After the first three months, if weight loss goals are met, the personnel enter a six-month weight management program.
Friedl (2004) measured changes in body weight during basic training and the first six months following basic training for 1,048 male and 816 female recruits according to initial adiposity. Figure 5-6 shows that male