'Too fat to fight': thousands of British soldiers overweight

The British army has a global reputation for efficiency and performance, but new figures published on Sunday suggest that its soldiers might be getting a little soft.

More than 32,000 soldiers failed a basic at some point in the past three years, and more than 22,000 were found to be overweight and at risk of , according to Ministry of Defence figures.

All soldiers in the British army are required to complete a personal fitness assessment twice a year, and those who fail must retake the test within seven days. Multiple failures could result in being discharged.

Men under the age of 29 must complete 44 press-ups in two minutes, followed by 50 sit-ups in two minutes, and a 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometre) run within 10.5 minutes.

Women have a slightly easier test, with 21 press-ups, 50 sit-ups and 13 minutes in which to complete the run, while the rules are relaxed for older soldiers.

According to the figures obtained by the Sunday Times newspaper, 29,600 men and 2,819 women failed their fitness tests between April 2011 and March 2014.

"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 Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

"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 Sunday Times also revealed that more than 22,000 troops were found to be at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and heart disease because they were so unfit.

In a story headlined "Too fat to fight," the newspaper quoted one senior officer who blamed the "appalling diet" of many troops.

"While 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," the officer said.

The figures on do not include those injured in Iraq and Afghanistan or those recovering from illness or training injuries, the newspaper said.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Army tests both women, men in combat fitness study

Mar 13, 2014

Army researchers are studying how hard soldiers—both women and men—have to work at battlefield tasks as the scientists strive to define gender-neutral fitness standards for troops in combat units.

Push-ups no match for combat

Dec 01, 2011

Presenting at the 2011 Defence Human Sciences Symposium, DSTO researcher Greg Carstairs outlined that current generic fitness assessments (including push-ups, sit-ups and chin-ups) are often poor predictors ...

Recommended for you

Weight stigma a daily experience for obese people

2 hours ago

Overweight and obese people experience many more episodes of being stigmatised in their everyday lives than was realised, with most suffering almost daily negative treatment, a UNSW-led study shows.

Berberine compound may play role in treating obesity

3 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Weight-gain warnings are especially uncomfortable during holiday seasons with all the oversized and double helpings of calorie-rich pies, creamy dips and savory holiday stuffings. Nonetheless, ...

Expanding waistlines weigh heavy on Malaysia

4 hours ago

Malaysians have a passionate love affair with their lip-smacking cuisine—rich curries, succulent fried chicken, buttery breads and creamy drinks—but it is increasingly an unhealthy relationship.

Obese children burdened by more than weight

Nov 24, 2014

High blood pressure and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are two emerging health problems related to the epidemic of childhood obesity. In a recent study, researchers at University of California, ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.