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Notes from the Army Health Promotion Policy Officer - on AR 600-9 and AR 600-63

In 1981, the Department of Defense (DOD Directive 1308.1, Physical Fitness and Weight Control Programs) directed the services to use body fat standards to assess obesity.

Human Resources
Notes from the Army Health Promotion Policy Officer -
on AR 600-9 and AR 600-63

POC: COL Fox, Com703-696-5134 DSN426-5134

AR 600-9: Army Weight Control Program
In 1981, the Department of Defense (DOD Directive 1308.1, Physical Fitness and Weight Control Programs) directed the services to use body fat standards to assess obesity. The criteria for selecting methods for assessment of body composition in the military were that the measures must be: usable easily in the field, able to be made reliably, and be valid indicators of fatness. The directive was later amended in January 1987, requiring the services to use a circumference based method.

Although hydrostatic weighing is commonly thought to be the "gold standard" in body composition measurement, the Army circumference measurements are a more reliable method of estimating body fat. Hydrostatic weighing is not only a costly procedure, but is greatly influenced by such factors as bone density and the individual's state of hydration and lung volume. The assumptions for these factors may result in errors as much as 2-3 percent in estimated body fat. Individuals with lung disease, including all smokers, may not fully exhale and consequently the body fat will be overestimated. There is also a problem in obtaining good hydrostatic weight measurements from non-swimmers who are uncomfortable with performing maximal exhalation under water.

Per AR 600-9, Army Weight Control, all soldiers, regardless of rank, are weighed at 6-month intervals to demonstrate that they are below tabled height-weight limits (divided by gender and into four age categories). If a soldier exceeds fat standards prescribed by gender and age, the unit commander must enter the individual in the Army Weight Control Program. The commander is required to provide motivational programs to the soldier, including nutrition education sessions and exercise programs. As additional incentive to achieve the standards, the soldier's records are flagged to prevent : reenlistment, assignment to command positions, favorable actions such as awards, and transfer to any professional schooling beyond initial entry training. A soldier who fails to make satisfactory progress toward weight or fat loss can be discharged from the Army under a separation action for failure to meet the weight control standards.

Lean body mass, or body composition, is critical in successfully performing the jobs that require cardiac and respiratory endurance and muscular strength and endurance. According to research completed by the United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, excess body fat can detrimentally affect a soldier's performance. Too much body fat can affect aerobic activities such as running. The Army's body fat standards are based on medical research indicating a relationship between percent body fat and the incidence of health problems such as high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes.

Postpartum Soldiers and the Weight Control Program and APFT:
The amount of time a postpartum soldier is exempt from the Weight Control Program and the APFT was extended from 135 days to 180 days in March 1994. Many installations offer a Pregnancy Physical Training Program which assist pregnant and postpartum soldiers in maintaining fitness throughout their pregnancy and assist them in returning to pre-pregnancy fitness levels after pregnancy termination. These exercise programs follow established medical guidelines, and women must be cleared to participate by the physician who confirms the pregnancy, or by the nurse midwife who issued the pregnancy profile. These pregnancy fitness programs also provide an ideal time for new expectant mothers to interact with "experienced" mothers. It provides an opportunity to educate new mothers-to-be on family care plans, parental responsibilities, nutrition, child care, and other topics. Many installations are finding that the combination of exercise and education is highly beneficial to pregnant soldiers.