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Making Troops Fit Keeps Army Happy
December 2, 2010

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If you're in the Army now, you're expected to be physically fit and eat healthy food. That's the message coming out of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., one of five Army training facilities around the U.S. The recruits at Fort Leonard Wood are now expected to be confronted and challenged about their eating habits, their exercise routines, and their knowledge of health and fitness.

Although many people might have thought that that sort of thing was happening already, the new push is a full-throttle one, with the aim of creating "soldier athletes." Drill sergeants are encouraging their troops to think about the nutritional content of the foods they eat in the mess hall. (It helps that they've helpfully posted signs containing the foods' protein, calorie, and fat information.)

Exercise is also a prime focus, with modern technology lending a hand to support workouts that stress flexibility, physical therapy, strength and conditioning, core strength, physical and mental endurance, and overall cardiovascular health — not the same old boots-heavy, weapons-dominated drills of yore.

The push is in response to a few growing trends: civilians who join the Army come from a background filled with fast food and little exercise, either from ignorance or from apathy; resulting from this is an increased need for medical and dental care later in the life (sometimes as early as their first six months in the armed services); also resulting from this is a lack in mental and physical conditioning that is vital for the battlefield success of a group of soldiers. Surprisingly, the Army has found that many recruits have no formal training in physical activity beyond a school physical education class.

The Army will soon extend the program to the other four training centers: Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Jackson, S.C.; and Fort Knox, Ky.

It might be too early to make bold predictions, but the Army is already reporting, after just a short time, a drop in the number of injuries suffered by recruits and a corresponding rise in the scores on physical fitness tests.



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