Research: Weight loss may improve fitness


A study links weight loss and improved military fitness.

Military Formation
Military Formation

Military readiness is a huge problem across the Department of Defense (DOD). I have seen new articles that appear to indicate that the limitary is becoming less and less fit and thus less ready to fight the countries wars. Far be it from me to argue with the facts, but the fact is that the problem is bigger than the DOD or military. The United States as a population is less and less physically fit and very few citizens are able to serve in the military.

Overweight and obesity are major public health concerns in the United States. This concern does not exclude among active-duty military personnel. Over 50% of active-duty personnel are classified as overweight and around 15% are classified as obese. Their expanding waistlines absolutely impact military readiness and medical costs. A study from 2019 aimed to determine if a weight loss intervention impacted fitness test scores among Air Force personnel​[1]​.

The study was performed from 2014 to 2016. The study included 204 Air Force members that were overweight or obese. The subjects were randomized into either a self-paced or counselor-initiated arm in a weight loss program. Fitness test scores from before, during, and after the intervention were used to determine if the intervention resulted in improvements in overall fitness levels. Fitness levels can be expected to go up with increased military readiness.

The study found that participants who lost at least 5% of their weight had better fitness test scores when compared to individuals who did not lose 5%. Participants that were overweight had better aerobic scores pre- and postintervention as well as better abdominal circumference scores and better overall fitness test rating preintervention than those that were obese.

The bottom line: Weight management interventions that achieve 5% weight loss may help improve military fitness and readiness. This should nto be surprising because being overweight has been shown to reduce absenteeism and medical costs. If you are healthier, you should be fitter and ready to deploy. Similar studies have been done in the Navy and Army.


  1. [1]
    K. Pebley et al., “Weight Loss Intervention Impact on the Physical Fitness Test Scores of Air Force Service Members,” Military Medicine, Nov. 2019, doi: 10.1093/milmed/usz371. [Online]. Available:
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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