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Obesity crisis in UK army: British soldiers failing basic fitness tests

Published time: June 23, 2014 14:09
Edited time: June 27, 2014 07:45
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond speaks to troops during a visit to the temporary Army barracks at Tobacco Dock, a former shopping centre in east London (Reuters)

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond speaks to troops during a visit to the temporary Army barracks at Tobacco Dock, a former shopping centre in east London (Reuters)

The UK army may be getting ‘too fat to fight’, failing basic fitness tests, with more than 22,000 overweight and at risk of serious health problems, according to recently released Ministry of Defence figures.

Some 32,000 personnel failed a “basic” fitness test within the last three years, according to MoD figures released Sunday, the Sunday Times reported. The statistics are starting to ignite fears of an obesity crisis in the ranks.


The personal fitness assessment is an obligatory undertaking twice a year. If the test is failed it must be retaken within seven days.

A total of 29,600 men and 2,819 women failed their fitness tests between April 2011 and March 2014, according to the paper.

“This figure represents 11 percent of the army serving in that period and many of those who failed will have subsequently passed their fitness test,” the MoD said.

“All personnel are provided with the support and training necessary to meet the army's physical standards, with additional help for those personnel who fail to meet this criteria…personnel who remain unable to meet the standard could ultimately be discharged,” the statement added.

The test for men involves soldiers under 29 having to finish 44 press-ups in 2 minutes, 50 sit-ups, and a 2.4-kilometer run in under 10 and a half minutes.

Women have to complete a slightly different test – 21 press-ups, the same number of sit-ups, and have an extra 2 1/2 minutes to complete the run.

The newspaper quoted a senior official who said that the “appalling diet” of troops was responsible for the declining health of the armed forces; the 22,000 who are purportedly overweight are at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

“While soldiers can have salads and low-calorie meals, they can also have a cooked breakfast, followed by chips at lunch and chips at dinner and a stodgy pudding, too,” an officer said.

The statistics did not include those soldiers recovering from injuries, or those injured in Iraq or Afghanistan.

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