Citadel Researcher Finds More Army Recruits from Southern States Unfit to Fight

Jan 12, 2018

Dr. Daniel Bornstein.
Credit Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

A new study finds South Carolina among ten states with a larger number of unfit Army recruits compared to the rest of the nation. The research comes from the Citadel, a military school in Charleston, and shows potential soldiers who are not physically fit are more likely to be injured during basic training, costing the Department of Defense and putting our nation's military readiness at risk.

"Ultimately what the study showed was what what I really thought from the beginning," said Daniel Bornstein, Ph.D.  He's the study's author and an assistant professor at  the school's Department of Health, Exercise and Sport Science.  "In fact  recruits from the south are less physically fit, at least in certain states, and significantly more likely to become injured."

The states named in Bornstein's research, the ones he found less physically fit are;  South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Bornstein says unfortunately, these southern states are also most heavily recruited.  Many have the highest rates of obesity, diabetes, stroke and hypertension in the nation.  But Bornsten focused solely on physical fitness and basic training related injuries.

He teamed up with the American Heart Association and the US Army Public Health Center to conduct his research.  The center opened it's vault of  injury records for Bornstein to analyze.  He looked specifically at the cardiovascular fitness of recruits, measuring it by their two mile run times.  He found those who were not fit, both men and women, were 22 to 28 percent more likely to suffer injuries.  What's more, each recruit lost cost the Department of Defense at least $31,000.00.

"What the results from this study show is physical inactivity and low physical fitness are almost an equivalent of second hand smoke," said Bornstein.  "It's everyone's problem.  It's bad for national security."

"I think the solution to this problem is really a societal solution," said Dr. Bruce Jones.  He works for the US Army Public Health Center and is the study's co-author.  "It's not necessarily an Army solution."

Dr. Eduardo Sanchez agrees.  He's the Chief Medical Officer for Prevention at the American Heart Association.  "Parents have a role to play.  The government has a role to play. Employers have a role to play.  Educators have a role to play," he said.

Bornstein, meantime, hopes the study is champion for change.  Much like smoking, he says, it takes the public to realize physically unfit recruits impact everyone, especially when it comes to national security.  Only then, he believes, policies will change.

"If we don't begin to weave physical activity and improve physical fitness back into the fabric of our culture, we do it at our own peril."