Is our nation unfit to serve?

While a small number of hard-core fitness enthusiasts embrace military-style bootcamp workouts, more of us have grown fatter and less fit—unable to qualify for a job in the military even if we wanted one. In fact, there’s been a recent shrinkage in the pool of eligible military recruits as more Americans are increasingly overweight and get turned down because they’re “medically unfit for service,” a striking result of the obesity epidemic.

“Ret. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, Commander of the US Army in Europe from 2011-2013, has stated that the two biggest threats to our country’s long-term security are the ever-expanding waistlines of young civilians and the effect obesity has on dwindling defense budgets that must now be stretched to cover obesity-related illnesses,” wrote US Navy Veteran Ed Foster-Simeon in a blog posted Monday on The Hill.

He went on to cite some scary statistics.

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The US military discharges more than 1,200 first-term enlistees every year because they cannot maintain a healthy weight and fitness level. Between 1995 and 2008, 140,000 potential recruits failed their military entrance physicals due to an unhealthy weight—a 70 percent increase over the previous 13 years.

Foster-Simeon, president of the US Soccer Foundation and board member for the Campaign to End Obesity, makes a strong case in favor of supporting the Fit to Serve bill that Congress is now considering. The bill would promote “joint use agreements” between military athletic facilities and their surrounding communities in order to allow people living in unsafe communities access to military gyms and other fitness facilities. It would also increase obesity education efforts for recruits and military personnel to help them maintain a healthy weight and adequate fitness level.

What do you think of this proposal?