Military and police candidate pools shrink due to obesity

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The health status of American youth is getting a lot of attention. More of our kids are overweight and obese than ever before. Being overweight for teens and young adults is not only bad for their health, but it can also prevent them from getting a job.

The United States Navy says more than 50-percent of people who show interest in joining have a high body fat percentage, which automatically disqualifies them from even being considered. The Eau Claire Police Department says it has been running into similar issues.

“Unfortunately, we do see a lot of candidates who get "washed out" early on in the process because they can't pass the minimal physical requirements,” said Public Informational Officer, Kyle Roder.

In the fall of 2012, nearly 20-percent of candidates did not pass minimal fitness requirements. Officer Roder says the department even lowered their physical testing just over five years ago.

“We don't want to "wash" people who may be very good at the job itself, but we have to have some minimal requirements because it is a physical job. And when they're out there protecting the community, they have to be able to protect themselves first,” added Roder.

“We have a number of kids in our school that are obese, as far as increase in numbers, we do see a little bit of that too starting to trend,” said Physical Education Teacher at North High School, Stephanie Sturgis.

North High School's P.E. Department says the school district does recognize the problem, and what it could cause once the kids are out in the workforce. The school provides special fitness classes for kids who are interested in joining the military, as well as a weekly fitness day for all students.

“It’s important to start somewhere,” said Sturgis.

Both the military and the police say they are interested in well-rounded individuals, and Sturgis says with physical activity comes enhanced learning.

“Just going beyond physical benefits of being physically active, it's also the mind; it has been proven over and over again what activity does to your mind and how it can retain more information,” added Sturgis.

And professional says it’s never too late to start.

“Human body is an amazing tool; if something seems difficult right now, that's physical activity; it gets better, your body will adapt to it,” said Sturgis.

Officer Roder says the Eau Claire Police Department candidate pool is shrinking and will probably get even smaller in the future, due to many reasons, including physical abilities. But the military and the police both say even though it's getting more difficult, they have been able to find highly qualified individuals to fill the positions.