Society blamed for rise in army of unfit applicants

Twenty sit-ups in a minute. Twenty press-ups in a minute. Run a mile in 11 minutes — not too high a fitness bar, but beyond many hoping to join the army.

Couch-potato lifestyles, playing endless hours of Xbox and PlayStation, and doing the wrong gym exercises are being blamed for an increase in the number of potential recruits who are failing the army fitness tests.

Military sources say there has been a noticeable increase in recent years in the number of young people who aren’t able to pass physical tests, which are mandatory for entering the Defence Forces.

To be successful, males and females have to perform 20 sit-ups and 20 press-ups, each within one minute. Men have to be able to run a mile in 11.5 minutes and women in 13 minutes.

Of the last set of potential recruits to take the tests, 40% of men and 60% of women failed to measure up.

“It’s a societal issue which reflects general trends in obesity and fitness levels in the population,” a senior military source said, adding that some failed applicants could have passed the sit-up and push-up tests if they had known how to do them properly.

To address this the Defence Forces have put an instructional video on their Facebook page.

Security expert Tom Clonan, a former captain in the army, said young men and women were going to the gym and performing the wrong exercises for the type of fitness required by the Defence Forces.

He said many young people were concentrating on developing upper body strength.

“They’re a different shape to what we were. They are much bigger. But that type of gym work doesn’t necessarily lend itself to aerobic endurance which the Defence Forces are looking for. They’re looking for people who can endure a long time carrying heavy equipment and then go straight into action,” Mr Clonan said.

He said successful recruits will become steadily fitter because of the physical culture the army promotes.

Defence Forces sources said part of the on-the-job training was to encourage a culture of fitness and a healthy lifestyle. That’s why so few soldiers fail their annual fitness tests.

Mr Clonan said army physical training instructors should be employed in every school in the country to tackle growing obesity levels and sedentary lifestyle.

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