U.S. Military Experiments with Yoga to Cure Our Most Preventable National Security Issue

Army YogaThe U.S. Military recently recruited the talents of Tony Horton, the creator of P90X, in order to confront increasing obesity among our fighting men and women.  The growing obesity problem in the United States has become a national security issue.  While the nation stands in the midst of a global “war on terror,” America finds itself too fat to fight.

In 2008 only the state of Colorado had an adult obesity rate below 20%.  Of the 49 states with adult obesity above 20% thirty-two were above 25% and six were above 30%.   These statistics translate into the startling assessment that one in five Americans age 18-34 is obese. In addition, 27 percent of 18 to 24 year olds are too overweight to join the military.

This disturbing trend has had a predictable impact on the military where the obesity rate has doubled since 2003. According to the January 2009 edition of the DoD’s Medial Surveillance Monthly Report the number of troops diagnosed as overweight or obese is twice what is was at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Tony Horton has suggested the military include yoga in traditional fitness training.  Horton stated that “the days of pushups, sit ups, and long runs in the military are over.” Instead of the usual routine that most soldiers have grown too accustomed to over the years, Horton has suggested yoga because of its ability to lubricate joints and utilize push up or other postures which magnify strength exercises.

The military should be commended for taking proactive steps to address obesity within the ranks and insulate the force from the growing disease of obesity.  However, more drastic measures may be required.  The disturbing statistics demonstrate that the routine morning PT consisting often of hundreds of “side-straddle hops,” and “release runs” is not keeping soldiers in shape.  Too often the military has adhered to the strict rule that physical training must be on a field and in a group.  Many a young military officer will tell you about trips to the gym after PT or after the work day to maintain the level of fitness their rank requires.  The obesity problem and Horton’s statements suggest that physical training must be tailored to keep soldiers fit and lean, instead of focusing on an arbitrary test of the number of pushups or sit ups that can be completed in a two-minute period.

Unless the military changes its thinking we will find ourselves booby-trapped by our own gluttony.

Posted on 25 Jul 2010

Photo: http://www.dod.mil

6 thoughts on “U.S. Military Experiments with Yoga to Cure Our Most Preventable National Security Issue

  1. Eric says:

    There's nothing wrong with innovating Army PT since soldiers' physical fitness is critical to their profession. Teaching soldiers exercises that are more time and space efficient and can be done in smaller groups or individually is a good idea, especially for soldiers who otherwise would only think to PT in formation and big open spaces. But I wouldn't blame FM 21-20 for soldiers being out of shape. The old exercises work just fine with motivated NCOs, high unit fitness standards, and a good unit PT program.The thing I'd blame for fat soldiers is the Army diet. The foods most available to soldiers, D-FAC fare and MREs, are fattening. On post, if soldiers opt out of the chow hall, they can choose from a bunch of fast food restaurants or junk food from the mini-mall on post. I speak from experience: first, fix the diet to fix the fat. Then make sure the soldiers' unit PT programs, whether traditional or innovative, are high enough intensity.

  2. @Eric I definitely agree with your comments. I love crossfit, P90x looks great from what I've seen of it, and yoga is unquestionably effective. However, I'm sure Tony Horton isn't stopping by the base PX for ramen followed by a triple-thick shake at McDonald's. There need to be more healthy options for servicemembers as well as better education about nutrition. You exercise once or twice a day, hopefully four to five times week. Everyone eats three times a day, seven days a week. It's simple numbers.

  3. Becky Cooper Nadis says:

    The second issue brought up in this piece–that an overweight population makes for a smaller pool from which to recruit our standing army–is one that I find very frightening. It's one thing to help overweight service members to live a healthier lifestyle, but what can, or should be done to ensure that there are enough potential recruits?

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  5. seanwilkes says:

    One could offer incentives to people who come to enlist in the military already physically fit. But really it comes down to reducing obesity in children. Thats where it starts. The military might consider partnering with schools to encourage physical fitness. Would also be a good recruiting tool.

  6. […] and the earth, and to see “bad” not in the guy but in the behavior. These things are also happening in the […]

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