​A Matter of National Security: The Physical Fitness of the Nation

​A Matter of National Security: The Physical Fitness of the Nation

Posted by Christine Vande Griend on Jul 12th 2019

By Christine Vande Griend,  Hero Care Packages

What do you think of when you hears that a certain topic is a “matter of national security?” Do you think of Heroes and how they should have the best training and equipment? Do you consider military budgets and how they are appropriated? Do you think of security threats to our nation?

Certainly, all of these things are natural and legitimate matters of national security, and common aspects of security that I’m sure are evaluated constantly.

But have you ever considered that physical fitness is a matter of national security, and a serious one at that? Now before you click away, stay with me – we’ll look at the issue.

My epiphany regarding this fact first came from a remark made by a very prominent expert in brain scanning, Dr. Daniel Amen. As he discussed brain health and overall wellness, discussed during an interview on Impact Theory, during an interview on Impact Theory, Dr. Amen remarked to host Tom Bilyeu that the general physical condition of our nation “we could think of as a matter of national security, since fewer people are eligible for military service.”

That got my attention.

It’s probably no secret to you that we have a serious obesity problem in the United States. But connecting the dots between that issue with and how it could affect our national security, as Dr. Amen remarked, in terms of fewer Americans eligible for military service, is one that I had never considered or discussed or heard other patriots discuss.

It also stands to reason that if there are fewer Americans eligible for military service, the civilian population is suffering the ill effects of poor diet, inadequate exercise, and preventable medical conditions.

Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling

It turns out he wasn’t the only one to sound the alarm on this. Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling addressed a TedX crowd in 2012, and painted a very clear picture of the problem. Lt. Gen. Hertling said in his 38 years as a soldier, he had analyzed many threats to our security – and he wanted us to know about a emerging threat. “I think [it] will have an effect on our future, our economy, our youth, and our economic system.”Lt. Gen. Hertling, who holds a Masters Degree in exercise Physiology and taught physical education at West Point, was made Commander of Initial Military Training around 2009. “What I found when I reported to that assignment, disturbed me. Several facts came to my attention.”

According to Lt. Gen Hertling, he discovered that a full 75% of civilians ages 17-24 years of age, who wanted to join the Army were not qualified to join the Army, and the number one reason they were not qualified was obesity. Of the 25% who could join the Army, what we found on the first day of Basic Training, was that about 60% of them could not pass the PT test that we gave on the first day. “We were finding that the great majority of our new soldiers, coming off the civilian environment, could not pass that test. I couldn’t understand what had happened; this is not what I had left studying physical education in 1986.”

So what changed in those intervening years? The Lt. Gen. ticked off some reasons that most of us are aware of, but since the problem remains, the usual suspects bear repeating. From studying the problem and the data he reviewed, he noted: 

  • Drastic increase in the use of technology
  • Drastic decrease in active playtime (away from the screen)
  • Terrible examples to our children in terms of eating, exercise, relying on technology for relaxation, and failing to balance our lives.              

Ouch. Yeah, that shook me right down to that supersize soda I was drinking at the time. And my suspicion as to the key to who is ultimately responsible also turned out to be true. Me. Well, I might not be responsible for the whole thing – but I would like to think that all Patriots at least feel that radical sense of responsibility.

This is not a call to be runway model – it’s an intentional reflection and action that we should all be aiming for: a state of physical fitness that lends itself to good health. And considering what obesity and an unfit lifestyle costs the American public – economic, health and enjoyment of life costs, it seems we would all do well to see where we can improve.

Patriots may have a variety of reactions to and reflections on this information.


"My Hero is fit and so are his or her battle buddies – so what’s the problem?”

Awesome You’re seeing the end result of the best of the best – and what we always want more of. I can’t imagine a patriot who would not want their military to be in the finest physical condition possible – after all, their safety is on the line, and our country’s security rests on their shoulders.

So what can a Patriot do about this substantial problem? You might agree that this issue exists, but think, as would be logical, that if you’re not in the military, there’s nothing you can do about this.

We have to lead by example. That means all of us. The truth is that there are very few Americans who wouldn’t benefit from a little more time on the treadmill, a few more salads, and a little less fast food. Think you can’t influence your family, your friends, people in your wider circle? Think again! Some research and studies point to social norms and peer influences in areas such as healthy eating and exercise. Children, in particular, appear to be profoundly influenced by their parents and other people in their environment. It doesn’t matter if you’re kids and grandkids are grown adults: They are still watching. All the time.

Lead by example, and lead by example some more. What do I mean? All the actionable correction for health lands in only one category: responsibility. I’m not in the military. I’m reasonably fit and healthy. Why do I feel responsible to even write about this and then tell you that this applies to me, too? Everyone benefits when people take personal responsibility for things that they can control – either by keeping up the good work, improving, and trying to set a good example. Oh and there’s another thing: when Americans commit to something great – and your health and mine are important, precious national resources. I can tell you, for myself, that serves as a powerful incentive to make exercise more of a priority, stay away from food that is bad for me, and make an effort to bring a better diet into my life. You’ll feel the same way too – it’s a win-win.

Most of us are probably aware that kids and adults alike, as a nation, are not eating for good health, are not getting enough exercise, and are spending an insane amount of time overusing technology in favor of an unhealthy level of inactivity and a generally sedentary lifestyle.

However, there was one more substantial factor that Lt. Gen. Hertling noted in his speech that many of us may not be aware of: over the past two decades, physical education programs in America’s public schools have been cut back to a point that Americans of my generation can barely imagine. My high school experience, and that of my now grown children, included physical education, and participation in physical education was mandatory in order to graduate.

Take a second check out your state’s current P.E. requirements in order for students to receive a high school diploma, according to the Education Commission of the United States. Physical Education as most of us remember it, is all but completely absent in our nation’s public schools – and most Patriots would find that to be very troubling. In many states, much of what little P.E. is now required to graduate can be taken in form of online studies.

Lt. Gen. Hertling was very firm in what he had this to say about our personal responsibility, Patriots: “This is not something you can put a yellow ribbon on and let someone else take care of this,” he told the audience. Be fearless in terms writing your schools, be fearless in trying to get nutrition back in restaurants, in balancing your lives and getting out to exercise, be fearless in modeling your behavior for young people.”

We want our “one per cent” Heroes to be 100% fit and healthy. Lt. Gen. Hertling is right. The problem belongs to all of us. And fortunately, so does the solution. That’s the amazing part. As always, we’re all in this together, Patriots – so let us know what you think – leave a comment, and make sure you sign up for blog post updates so you’ll never miss our twice a month content updates! 

Whether you're hitting the treadmill or hitting the road, one of the best ways to make yourself start is to buy a great pair of  running shoes. So, get going!