Author Topic: Report suggests 3/4 of Canadian Forces personnel are overweight, obese  (Read 12603 times)

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Offline MilEME09

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Report suggests three-quarters of Canadian Forces personnel are overweight, obese


Three-quarters of Canadian Forces personnel are overweight or obese, a new report suggests, although the authors caution those numbers may be skewed by soldiers with high muscle mass.

The figures are contained in the latest edition of the department’s Health and Lifestyle Information Survey (HLIS), which covers the 2013/2014 year.

    “Based on self-reported height and weight, 49 per cent of personnel were classified as overweight and another 25 per cent were classified as obese,” the report reads.

Among the overweight group, high muscle mass “may account for a proportion” of the members who found themselves in that category.

Being overweight based on the body mass index (BMI) scale means you’re heavier than recommended for your height, but many soldiers may simply be very muscular. The BMI of a very muscular person could easily be in the overweight/obese range even though their body has very little fat.

The same can’t be said for the obese, or morbidly obese, personnel who were surveyed.

    “The vast majority of males and females with an obese BMI perceived themselves as carrying excess body fat,” says the report. “High muscle mass could, therefore, explain some cases of overweightness in males, but is unlikely to account for many cases of obesity in either males or females.”

Overall, the proportion of obese Canadian Forces members has increased nearly five per cent since 2004. The proportion of people classified as morbidly obese also jumped, from 3.6 to six per cent, in the same time span.

The HLIS was mailed out to 4,312 Canadian Forces personnel in 2013 who had been randomly selected from an overall population of 56,574. The data were then weighted to reflect the age, sex, and rank distribution of the 2013 regular force personnel.
Less smoking, but not enough veggies

The report contained some good news when it came to smoking and physical activity. The number of smokers decreased from 23 per cent in 2008-2009 to 17.6 per cent in 2013-2014, and the proportion of physically active members increased from 78.7 per cent to 85.2 per cent in the same period.

But when it comes to diet, the authors again found themselves facing bad news.

A full 83.3 per cent of Regular Force personnel reported that their eating habits were good, very good, or excellent, the report notes.

“However, only 28.7 per cent of personnel ate vegetables and fruits more than six times per day … Furthermore, 42.4 per cent of Regular Force personnel had skipped breakfast at least twice in the last week, and 52.2 per cent of personnel underestimated Canada’s Food Guide recommendations for vegetable and fruit intake.”

    Those numbers suggest “a notable nutritional knowledge gap” in Canada’s military, the report concludes.

Binge drinking still a problem

The HLIS also examined issues like excessive drinking and mental health problems.

The report states that while there’s been little change in the percentage of personnel engaged in harmful drinking over the past few years, “a substantial proportion of personnel are still engaged in high risk/harmful drinking behaviours including binge drinking.”

The authors suggest “continued efforts” to promote responsible drinking.

The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), which was included as part of the broader survey, showed that 20 per cent (or one-fifth) of personnel have “harmful or hazardous drinking behaviours.” That’s up from 15.7 per cent  in 2004

Around 17.1 per cent of Regular Force personnel sought help for a mental health problem in the 12 months before filling out the survey, which was slightly more than in 2004. Another 15 per cent said they felt the need for mental health care, but did not receive it over the past year.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

While great that they recognize that some of the over weight catagory could be due to those with high muscle mass, I'm rather appalled but not shocked at the obesity percentage.
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Offline daftandbarmy

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While great that they recognize that some of the over weight catagory could be due to those with high muscle mass, I'm rather appalled but not shocked at the obesity percentage.

Yeah... high muscle mass... we'll go with that.
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Offline PuckChaser

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If I gained 10 lbs, my BMI is overweight range. There is no possible way my weight is unhealthy. BMI is a terrible predictor. I'm willing to bet probably half of the overweight range are just super fit pers. The telling statistic is the 25% that are obese, while we make fitness tests easier and easier, and provide crap food at CAF kitchens.

To make this a better survey, they should have cross referenced BMI with fitness test scores. Then we'd really know how bad the situation is.

Offline George Wallace

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If I gained 10 lbs, my BMI is overweight range. There is no possible way my weight is unhealthy. BMI is a terrible predictor. I'm willing to bet probably half of the overweight range are just super fit pers. The telling statistic is the 25% that are obese, while we make fitness tests easier and easier, and provide crap food at CAF kitchens.

To make this a better survey, they should have cross referenced BMI with fitness test scores. Then we'd really know how bad the situation is.


 >:D   But with lower standards in fitness tests, that would be less than your desired effect.
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Offline caocao

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Lots of people with high muscle mass in the NCR.

  :sarcasm:

Offline ModlrMike

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7% sample size in a population where the primary metric is known to be inaccurate.

I think I will reserve judgment on the results.
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Offline Haggis

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Let's step back 25 years and bring back the BMI as a predictor of employability and career potential.  Get rid of everyone who is determined to be obese or higher by the BMI regardless of body composition.  I'm 5'9 and 200 lbs (BMI 29.5) and my kit is ready to go back to QM just to set the example.
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Offline ballz

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To make this a better survey, they should have cross referenced BMI with fitness test scores. Then we'd really know how bad the situation is.

As part of the FORCE test, they are now measuring everybody's waist size. They *SHOULD* be measuring hip circumference as well, so that the waist-to-hip ratio can be calculated. This would be a fairly accurate way to judge the "overweight-ness" of the Canadian Armed Forces as the waist-to-hip ratio weighs the persons waist circumference (i.e. stored fat) against their hip circumference (i.e. bone / muscle mass). They wouldn't need to do surveys because 95% of the population's data would be recorded every year and the statistic could be calculated automatically.

At 5'10", 205 lbs, I am one of those that is contributing to our overweight-ness using the BMI. However, my waist-to-hip ratio is in the health range which makes perfect sense as I do have a wider /stockier build but did get Gold on the FORCE test and do participate in triathlons and martial arts on a regular basis.
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Offline ModlrMike

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As part of the FORCE test, they are now measuring everybody's waist size. They *SHOULD* be measuring hip circumference as well, so that the waist-to-hip ratio can be calculated. This would be a fairly accurate way to judge the "overweight-ness" of the Canadian Armed Forces as the waist-to-hip ratio weighs the persons waist circumference (i.e. stored fat) against their hip circumference (i.e. bone / muscle mass). They wouldn't need to do surveys because 95% of the population's data would be recorded every year and the statistic could be calculated automatically.

Very attainable. The resultant ratio could be scored green, yellow, red, and factored into the overall fitness profile.
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Offline Tcm621

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Yeah... high muscle mass... we'll go with that.
I have been "overweight"  according to the BMI since high school. And I was 170 pounds in highschool with a six pack. The BMI is useless as an accurate measure of health or fitness.

While no one would argue that we don't have a fair number of very fat people in the CAF, we do have a lot of muscular ones as well. The BMI treats them the same.

Coincidentally we were discussing this at work last night. The fact that the CAF requires us to be fit yet units are unwilling to provide opportunities to gain and maintain that fitness. We are always too busy for PT. The army is better but the navy and air force are still lagging behind in adhering to unit Pt requirements.

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Offline ueo

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Long time ago, I was threatened with immediate release by a grotesquely over weight MO (my BMI- 28, his measured in tons). Challenged this decision and was "dunk tested" at the local uni Physio wing and found to be acceptable. As an infantry man I could Fight, F*** and drag a truck. How many good people did we lose due to an over zealous application of a stooooopid rule by some chairborne ranger?
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Offline Blackadder1916

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Let's step back 25 years and bring back the BMI as a predictor of employability and career potential.  Get rid of everyone who is determined to be obese or higher by the BMI regardless of body composition. 

Good God, no!  We already spend far too much in resources replying to human rights complaints for policies that have not already been identified as not being a bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR).  BMI was not used  "as a predictor of employability and career potential" but rather as an indicator of health and fitness.  Though there may not have been any specific CHRT rulings (or at least I didn't find any by cursory search) that refuted the use of BMI by the CAF in career decisions, my understanding is that BMI fell by the wayside because the writing was on the wall - it could not be defended as a BFOR.

Oh, re-read your post and it left me wondering.  Were you being sarcastic?
« Last Edit: October 23, 2016, 01:50:46 by Blackadder1916 »
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Offline Haggis

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Oh, re-read your post and it left me wondering.  Were you being sarcastic?

Very much so.  Nonetheless, I know some good solders from those days who fell victim to the BMI crusaders.
Train like your life depends on it.  Some day, it may.

Offline MCG

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"The vast majority of males and females with an obese BMI perceived themselves as carrying excess body fat"
This is probably a sign that we should not dismiss the results as primarily an inaccuracy of the BMI metric itself.

You might be able to look around the battalion and see a whole bunch of guys who spend three days a week in PT gear and all their time is lifting.  But you have to remember that the battalion is not a microcosm of the CAF.  It is not even a microcosm of the Army.

We do not have a culture of fitness in the CAF.  We have a culture of cancel PT to get other things done.  We have a culture of don't schedule PT to keep the course shorter.  Cookies are the official food of command posts in the field.  We have a lot of room to improve.

Offline kev994

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I'm currently working with the USCG, twice a year everyone has to weigh in. They have a BMI threshold for screening, if you're not within that they start measuring, if you don't pass that they move to either the fat measuring pinchers or a water displacement test. If you don't pass that they give you a year to get in shape or they give you the boot.
That said, I'm not sure such a test would pass the charter for Canada.

Offline Good2Golf

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This just in...Canadian society is 9/10 obese according to BMI... :nod:

Offline cheeky_monkey

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I've found within the seagoing navy that not all units/Command teams support the CDS' directed 5hr/week min for PT. If there is support, that support vanishes the instant the XO/HODs become busy, even if your department/section may not be. The rhetoric is that it's a matter of optics - "it looks bad if the ship is busy when junior officers leave the ship for PT, even if their work is done." What I don't understand is that while optics are stressed in that circumstance, there's no value given to the optics of having those same individuals being among the fittest onboard, as fitness examples for the remainder of the crew.

Regarding the title of the thread, I buy it - as far as waistlines are concerned, we're (the seagoing RCN excluding MTOG and the FDUs) an unfit outfit. Compare a HMC Ship's Coy against a USN or other NATO Ship's Coy, and we look frumpy and unfit.


That said, I'm not sure such a test would pass the charter for Canada.
DAOD 5516 doesn't say anything about size. Obesity would be argued to be a medical disability, thus using obesity as an aggravating factor in any scenario would be contrary to CF policy and CHRA. However, new terminology within a new style of measurement could be used to get around that snag. It appears a USCG approach could work for removing from CAF service those who have to tuck their massive bellies into their pants.

YMMV

Edited for clarity.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2016, 19:52:55 by cheeky_monkey »
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Offline SeaKingTacco

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My take on ship's company physical fitness, based on nearly a quarter century of sailing:

It has gotten a lot better. PT time seems to regularly occur. That said, there are two fairly serious impediments to everyone getting 5 hrs of PT per week.

The first is that sea time is scarce. That means when a ship goes to sea, they seem to pack 26hrs of activity into each and every day. Those drills and combat readiness requirements impose a tyranny that cannot be ignored. That said- doing damage control exercises are physically demanding.

The second is alongside. The ships are old and need lots of maintenance. We don't have a tonne of extra people (that I have observed) in our Navy, so a lot of work fixing ships falls heavily on the crew alongside. Perhaps more robust FMFs would help, but no one seems to want to spend the PYs for that.


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Obesity would be argued to be a medical disability, thus using obesity as an aggravating factor in any scenario would be contrary to CF policy and CHRA.

I would take the opposite view. True disabilities have a sense of permanence to them. People can lean to function as their limitations allow, but the base medical condition is probably not going away. Obesity on the other hand is changeable, to the point of elimination. That in itself should nullify the argument.
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Offline daftandbarmy

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My take on ship's company physical fitness, based on nearly a quarter century of sailing:

It has gotten a lot better. PT time seems to regularly occur. That said, there are two fairly serious impediments to everyone getting 5 hrs of PT per week.

The first is that sea time is scarce. That means when a ship goes to sea, they seem to pack 26hrs of activity into each and every day. Those drills and combat readiness requirements impose a tyranny that cannot be ignored. That said- doing damage control exercises are physically demanding.

The second is alongside. The ships are old and need lots of maintenance. We don't have a tonne of extra people (that I have observed) in our Navy, so a lot of work fixing ships falls heavily on the crew alongside. Perhaps more robust FMFs would help, but no one seems to want to spend the PYs for that.

Why do you think it's getting better? There must be some kind of good news story or other learnings that could be shared around.
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Offline SeaKingTacco

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Both personal attitudes towards fitness in sailors and a command climate which supports fitness.

That is why it has gotten better.

25 years ago, PT in a foreign port was golf. That was it.

Nowadays, nearly everyone runs or lifts weights or both.

Offline Oldgateboatdriver

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I concur with SKT.

And in my view, this improvement of personal attitudes towards fitness and command support of it is the way to continue to go and improve for the Navy.

The Navy benefits from having fit and healthy seaman, but you will never be able to either approach fitness in the Navy with the Army methods and outlook, nor does the Navy need Army "fitness freaks" approach to it.

The Navy will never need people that consider that the "fitness" part of their job means that they can run a marathon, then bike 50K before swimming two kilometres as a warm up for tonight's hockey game.

I am exaggerating, but barely  ;). However, if my sailors can reasonably go for a good 5k jog three times a week and hit the gym for weights once a week for an hour or two, while having a good basic diet, I would find that quite satisfactory.

Offline PuckChaser

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I'd be interested in how much fitness played a part in the damage control/fire fighting teams on PRESERVER, and whether they would have been more efficient/require less rest if they were fitter than jogging a couple times a week.

There's a big difference between jogging 5km in 45 minutes, and doing it regularly in 25.

Offline FSTO

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I'd be interested in how much fitness played a part in the damage control/fire fighting teams on PRESERVER, and whether they would have been more efficient/require less rest if they were fitter than jogging a couple times a week.

There's a big difference between jogging 5km in 45 minutes, and doing it regularly in 25.

The fitness aspect of the PRO DC response has been noted.

Offline SeaKingTacco

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I see FSTO has beat me to it, but my personal observation on a whole bunch of both simulated and real ship board fires is that they are a real bag drive.

Wearing bunker gear is no joke. It is heavy and heat exhaustion is a real possibility. AFFF cans weigh around 50lbs each. Hose lengths (empty) are about the same. Charged hoses are double or triple that, not to mention the force of the water has to be counteracted.

All things being equal, being physically fit allows you to do DC longer and more effectively. Equally important is a robust mental attitude.

I have seen overweight folks go down hard fighting fires. I can also recall one lad who many would consider overweight and out of shape do multiple runs on a real fire- he just wouldn't quit.