The most recent Health Related Behaviors Survey for the Department of Defense, conducted by the RAND Corporation, has been released recently — and, spoiler alert: it's not looking so good.
While the study covers a wide array of health problems, the biggest standout — the one that ruffled everyone's feathers — was that, across every branch, over sixty percent of troops are overweight or obese. The Army took top "honors" with a whopping 69.4 percent while the Marines achieved a slightly slimmer 60.9 percent.
But this isn't the most alarming statistic.
Troops are also getting less sleep than before. There's no denying the connection between lack of sleep and weight gain. Troops are still PTing their asses off early in the morning along with eating relatively well, which makes it pretty easy to identify the real root of the problem.
As noted by the Military Times, nearly sixty percent of all troops have reportedly gotten far less sleep than needed. Another research study conducted by the Journal of Sleep Research concludes that both insomnia and sleep apnea are on the rise among service members. This surely contributes to the nine-percent of all troops that have reported daily or near-daily use of sleep medication.
Contrary to popular belief, sleeping more is not a symptom of laziness, a laziness that many point to as the cause of weight issues. In fact, it's quite the opposite. A lack of sleep throws a person's hormones that regulate hunger, ghrelin and leptin, out of order. Getting just four hours of sleep will impact your body's ability to accurately determine its food intake needs.
Of course, eating too much junk food is going to increase weight gain. But did you know that the opposite — eating one meal a day (which is usually junk food or a late-night binge meal) — is often just as bad. Fat buildup is the body's way of conserving energy. If you're starving your body throughout the day and, right before going to bed, loading up on pizza and beer, your body will instinctively hold that junk food because that's all you're giving it.
While has been proven that intermittent fasting (intentional or not) does not have adverse effects on metabolism, it's still very unhealthy — especially when combined with the metabolism drop that comes with a lack of sleep.
Which scenario is more likely within the military? That a slight change in PT schedule was so widespread and disastrous that well over half of troops are now more fat — or that an increasingly competitive and stressful environment is causing troops to skip meals and sleep to accomplish arbitrary missions in a garrison environment?
And since the Army Combat Readiness Test, the new PT test for the Army, focuses more on physical strength over cardiovascular endurance, expect them to keep the top spot for the foreseeable future.