18-24-year-olds and their service during the first term of active-duty military enlistment. Individuals attending the military academies or participating in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), Reserve, and National Guard units are outside the sponsor’s purview.

The committee’s findings are presented in terms of each task.


Profile of American Youth

Task 1: Develop a profile of the physical and medical condition of American youth today and in the future.

The committee examined the following health-related factors: physical fitness; body weight and composition; asthma; alcohol, drug, and cigarette use; and mental health. We selected these factors on the basis of their specification in the charge, their frequency of occurrence in the applicant population, the extent to which disqualification for the condition could be overruled or waived by one of the Services, the existence of a military and academic research base, and the extent to which changing the standard could make a difference in the eligibility of a significant number of recruits. There are many disqualifying medical conditions that were not included in the committee’s investigation because of strong clinical or scientific evidence concerning their adverse effects on combat performance. These include serious diseases, physiological abnormalities, and physical impairments such as blindness and deafness.

Physical Fitness

Physical fitness is a multidimensional construct consisting of several core components, including cardiorespiratory endurance (aerobic fitness), muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. There are only a few studies on trends over time in the cardiorespiratory health of the youth population. Nevertheless, the evidence suggests that cardiorespiratory endurance in young men has declined by approximately 10 percent since 1966, whereas there was no change for young women during the same period. The cardiorespiratory fitness levels of men and woman entering the Army in the 1980s and 1990s were found to be unchanged for men and slightly improved for women. At the present time there are no military enlistment standards for physical fitness; fitness tests are administered at the beginning of, and at different points during, basic training.

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