There have been claims that women are not the problem, it is the military standards. The real error was more obvious, it makes some wonder why it was not mentioned earlier. A study published noted that women who perform the best in combat jobs that require power task are bigger and taller. This was not a shock to a person who understands functional fitness and the basics of the musculoskeletal system. The denser the bones and greater muscle mass means that the body can sustain more physical strain. The fact that body mass index is still used to evaluate soldier performance is more of a shock. This measure has been questionable in its scientific validity and usefulness in relation to calculating healthy weight. Women who do weight lifting can gain weight. This is not fat, rather the build up of lean body mass. The title of the Stars and Stripes article is some what of a misnomer. Leaner can be understood as having less body fat and therefore more muscle mass. The more accurate term here would be women of thinner body types. Military Medicine‘s study revealed that BMI is not reliable for assessing soldier fitness. Women who trained hard to build strength gained extra muscle mass as a result and were marked as being overweight. Qualified women possibly were overlooked for combat jobs due to this mistake. Other methods must be utilized to assess women’s preparedness for combat operations.
The study took 362 women soldiers and trainees examining their BMI. The result demonstrated that women with higher BMI were better at common soldiering tasks. This included marching under load or dragging causalities. The only flaw with this is that the sample is small. the challenge is finding enough women to participate in such studies. It will take some time for the numbers of women in combat jobs to increase. The ban was lifted in 2013. The Department of Defense lifted the ban on all positions only in 2015. The study used more active duty soldiers totaling 229. The trainees were 133 of the the test subjects. They did the common soldiering tasks such as the sandbag carry, move under fire, casualty drag, road march, and casualty evacuation. This was done with fighting loads on their bodies that weighed 60 to 90 lbs. The women that had BMI in the range of 25 to 29 were able to perform tasks easily. Women who were taller in heavier did better as well. According to the BMI chart, the 25 to 29 range is overweight. What can be concluded from this is that the body mass index chart does not account for muscle mass.
Observers have made this claim before, yet the chart is still in use. There is a claim that obesity rates are up across all of the armed services, but that can be disputed with this information. The BMI chart seems to indicate that women who are in shape and have the 25 to 29 range would be more suitable for combat. There was a suggestion that the BMI should be readjusted or waivers be given. The BMI may just have to be discarded, because it lacks precision in relation to combat readiness. The approach to fitness must also change.
The US Army at one time seemed to focus on cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance as indicators of soldier fitness. The problem is that strength was not a part of the measure. If the military occupational specialty requires lifting, this is essential. The only rational solution would be to design a program of functional fitness. This would incorporate strength training, runs, and endurance exercise. This was the reason that the US Army updated its standards. It can reduce injury rates, while have a uniform standard that both sexes must meet. It would be ludicrous to classify a fit soldier as overweight and negatively impact their career. Strength training should not come at the expense of other areas of fitness. One study from 2017 claimed that those who exceeded the weight and height standards took longer to complete the two mile run. This indicates that either they did not train enough for endurance or their cardiovascular fitness was ignored during training. Thus training should have a more integrative approach. Clearly, training needs adjustment and the BMI should be replaced with another form of measurement. Body fat testers could be more useful than BMI.
The body fat tester is more simple than BMI and does not require computation. Taking this measurement before and after training can help assess soldier physical fitness and health. The error of using BMI means that soldiers that could have performed better were disqualified due to an unreliable method. Gradually, the US Military has seen the problem and will proceed to fix it. The movement to functional fitness is much welcomed and being implemented in the new combat assessment tests.
The body mass index does make the mistake of classifying more muscular people as overweight. Taking random selections of strength athletes reveals errors. An observer would look and determine that such people are not overweight or obese. According to the chart they are. Attempts have been made to adjust it to women. The same problem still occurs with the classification. A women who has a high level of fitness could easily fall into the overweight classification by just gaining a few pounds. Obviously, small amounts of weight gain would not harm a person. It is only when it is massive amounts overtime which effect the circulatory and skeletal system. Let us select an assortment of crossfit, bodybuilding, and weightlifting athletes. The examples are of athletes past and present. The reason for this is to show how flawed the method is. Yolanda Hughes was a competitive body builder with a weight of 145 lbs in competition. Using her off season weight would be more reliable considering contest weight is not year round. Her 164 lbs weight would put her in the overweight range although most of her body would be muscle with some fat. Yolanda is 5′ 6” inches tall. Now calculate the BMI value. Yolanda falls in the 26.5 BMI range incorrectly classifying her as overweight. Stephanie Chung’s body is 150 lbs according to crossfit statistics. At 5′ 5” if she were to gain one more pound of muscle she would fall into being overweight according to the body mass index. her BMI is 24.9. Gaining a few pounds would not dramatically alter her health.
Cherly Haworth, who certainly is stronger than the both of them, has more mass and height. The Olympic athlete is 5′ 9” with a weight of 300 lbs. The BMI chart only stops at 215 lbs. Her BMI is 44.2, which means she would be extremely obese. Seeing as she is an Olympic athlete and does more exercise than the average American, it would be hard to believe she suffers from weight related health problems. Once more the BMI is providing data that does not match the the condition of a person’s fitness. A woman with high physical fitness could be randomly selected for the BMI measure and it still does not give a correct result. Even when the metric equation is used it produces similar results.
There is a growing health concern in relation to weight. The BMI is not reliable in predicting or making recommendations related to body mass. While waivers can be used to make exceptions for recruits who are qualified, the BMI probably needs to be discarded. The measurement has done the reverse: If women with a BMI of the 25 to 29 range perform better it would seem BMI from this perspective is an indicator of success. Using the skinfold calipher and then the BMI measure could be a readjustment. If women do not have too high of a fat ratio and fall in the 25 to 29 range, that would indicate that are strong enough for physically demanding tasks. There still remains controversy about women in combat as well as considerable debate. Others support the measure, while there are objections claiming it is unnecessary. Women in combat jobs is going to be more common, so it is pivotal that adjustments be made. A more reliable and precise method of assessing soldier fitness is needed for the US Military. If not then many qualified soldiers will be passed over for combat jobs.