The British army, like its U.S. counterpart, is drawing down. The waistlines of its soldiers, however, are not.
Multiple British media outlets have reported that more than 32,000 soldiers have chalked up at least one fitness-test failure in the past three years . More than 22,000 British army members are considered overweight by the Ministry of Defence, which one unnamed U.K. defense official (make that “defence official”) blamed on their “appalling diet.”
Despite the eye-popping statistics — current British army end strength rests at 150,000 or so — the Daily Mail reported only 50 U.K. soldiers had been kicked out of the service since 2002 for “obesity.” It’s not clear how the Brits define that term, but on this side of the Atlantic, more than 2,500 soldiers got the boot for violating weight standards from 2011-2012.
The British army’s physical fitness test should look familiar — two minutes of pushups (make that “press-ups”), two minutes of situps and a run, though only 1.5 miles instead of two. Troops must take the test twice a year and can retake it within seven days of a failure.
The age-bracket breakdowns aren’t the same, but the tests appear comparable: Going by the Daily Mail figures, a 25-year-old male British soldier would need to do 44 press-ups and 50 situps to pass, for example. A 25-year-old U.S. soldier would need to break 40 pushups and perform 50 situps to earn the minimum 60-point score.
Prior to these statistics, the biggest news in UK military fitness came in 2010, when two lawmakers from Northern Ireland were denied the ability to visit Afghanistan because the military couldn’t provide large enough flak jackets. The gear topped out at a waist measurement of 49 inches, bringing a literal meaning to “political fat cats.”