A significant number of United States Army soldiers slipped from healthy to overweight and from overweight to obese during the pandemic, according to a new study by Proquest Central.
The number of obese service members grew during pandemic lockdowns by about 10,000 individuals.
Over 17% of men and women in the Army were categorized using the body mass index (BMI) as obese in 2017, and statistics only got worse due to COVI9-19 lockdowns, which the study says contributed to "limiting movement and restricting regular military activities."
Looking at active-duty U.S. Army soldiers from the Military Health System Data Repository, the study calculated BMI from February 2019 to January 2020 and compared it to pandemic timelines, September 2020 to June 2021.
191,894 soldiers were studied, showing a 5% increase and 27% change in the obesity category, which are "significant" and "absolute" changes that happened during the pandemic, the study says.
During that time, 26.7% shifted from a "health" status to "overweight." Meanwhile, 15.6% went from "overweight" to "obese."
Obese is defined as being "grossly above the recommended standards, usually due to accumulation of excess FATS in the body."
This means that the obese category in the U.S. Army grew by about 10,000 soldiers from the members of this study alone, a category that represented 18.2% of the study's cohorts pre-pandemic.
Now, the figure equates to between about 35,000-45,000 out of approximately 192,000 active-duty members who are obese.
The most impacted categories of soldiers in the study included female, white, younger, and low-ranking soldiers.
The study's conclusion recommends "a focus on special intervention programs" by the U.S. Army.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over a third of young adults ages 17-24 are too heavy to serve in the military. Overweight and obese active-duty military personnel lose 658,000 workdays per year, costing the Department of Defense approximately $103 million annually.
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