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Can I Join the Military if I’m Obese?

By Kevin Flynn

Can I join the military if I am out of shape?

Does the military want people who are already in shape or are they happy to take less than fit personnel and build them into fit soldiers or sailors? This is an important issue because today's youth are trending towards couch potatoes. Recent statistics point to 23 percent of 18- to 34-year-old are now obese, up from just six percent in 1987.

Of the US population that is between the age of 17 and 24 (approximately 31 million people) an estimated 1 in 3 is unfit for service according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The main reason being obesity.

It's all about the Body Mass Index (BMI)

The CDC measures obesity by body mass index. How do you figure out your body mass index?

BMI = (weight in pounds * 703 )
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height in inches²


There are also many online calculators that will calculate your BMI based on you height and weight.

Army Body Mass Index

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Below are the BMI categories:

  • Standard or a good BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.

  • Underweight is below 18.5 is underweight

  • Overweight is 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight.

  • Obese is above 30


So can I still serve if I'm Obese?
The military usually rejects obese recruits because the weight won't all come off during basic training.

Can I get a waiver?

About 20% of recruits need a waiver to enter the service, of those a third get medical waivers. Waivers for obesity have been studied for years. However, the Army began a formal program in 2007. At that time 1,500 of the 80,000 recruits were admitted into the Army. They had to pass physical tests to prove they had some physical ability. The Army gave these recruits a year to shape up and meet Army's BMI standards.
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