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Air Force Weakening Weight Requirement To Bolster Recruitment

Graham Perdue
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Faced with shrinking recruitment numbers, the U.S. Air Force decided to lower its standards for body fat for recruits. Men may now be recruited with up to 26% body fat and women with up to 36%.

This shift comes as the pool of candidates for all branches of the military continues to contract, unlike the waistlines of potential recruits.

Air Force Recruiting Service spokeswoman Leslie Brown said the heavier recruits will not catch a break on physical fitness standards. “While recruits will be allowed to join with greater body fat percentages, they will still be expected to meet the same fitness standards as everyone else,” she said.                                                                                                                         


Brown said the new admissible body fat standards are part of a package of initiatives to strengthen the candidate pool and avoid “lowering standards.” 

She added that recruiters work in the present environment, not that of 30 years ago. “We’re recruiting today’s generation, not my generation who joined more than 30 years ago, where a tattoo may have been taboo but is now a societal norm.”

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, it is unhealthy for men between the ages of 20 and 39 to have over 19% body fat. For women of that age group, the healthy body fat limit is 32%.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently described obesity as a “scourge” on U.S. youth. The CDC said that one out of every three young adults aged 17-24 are too overweight for military service and concluded that the crisis is “impacting national security.” 


Medical experts caution that the higher percentage of body fat now allowable increases the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other health dangers.

The new permissible levels were termed “dangerously high.” 

The Department of Defense previously eased restrictions concerning mental and behavioral disorders. In most previous cases, young Americans undergoing treatment for anxiety or depression were ineligible for the armed forces.

Currently more than 77% of young people in the U.S. are categorized as “unfit” for service. The military’s hope is that they can take youth who led a sedentary lifestyle and mold them through physical fitness programs into a strong fighting force.

The Air Force is currently lagging behind its recruiting goals and is expected to miss its “active-duty” mark by 10% in 2023.