British Soldiers Face Dismissal Due to Obesity Crisis

September 2, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. obligatory /əˈblɪg əˌtɔr i/ (adj.) – necessary to be done to obey a law or regulation
Example: Soldiers have an obligatory duty of protecting citizens during war.

2. assessment /əˈsɛs mənt/  (n.) – evaluation of skills or abilities based on a series of tests or examination
Example: The final assessment determines a soldier’s endurance and stamina.

3. discharge /dɪsˈtʃɑrdʒ/ (v.) – to dismiss someone from a job
Example: Some soldiers were discharged after the drinking incident.

4. appalling /əˈpɔ lɪŋ/ (adj.) – shocking and disappointing
Example: The appalling behavior of the senior officer was caught on camera.

5. stodgy /ˈstɒdʒi/ (adj.) – referring to food that is high in carbohydrates
Example: They ate a stodgy soup for breakfast.


Read the text below.
Statistical results show that a number of British soldiers are overweight and are at risk of having health problems.

The figures released by the UK Ministry of Defence revealed that more than 32,000 soldiers failed the basic army tests within the past three years. Also, 22,000 soldiers are too heavy and are at high risk of having diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

To check if all soldiers meet the set fitness standards, the British army conducts an obligatory fitness assessment twice a year. If a soldier fails the test, he or she can retake it within seven days after the initial assessment. Multiple failures could lead to being discharged from duty.

The fitness standards vary between male and female soldiers. Male soldiers below 29 are required to do 44 press-ups in two minutes, 50 sit-ups, and a 2.5-kilometer run for 10.5 minutes. Female soldiers, on the other hand, must do 21 press-ups, 50 sit-ups, and a 13-minute run.

A total of 29,600 men and 2,819 women failed the tests between April 2011 and March 2014. According to the UK Ministry of Defence, those who failed are given additional support to meet the army’s physical standards. Many of them are likely to pass in the subsequent tests.

According to one senior officer, the decline in the soldiers’ health can be associated with their appalling diet. In a newspaper headlined Too Fat to Fight, the officer said that even if soldiers eat salads and low-calorie meals, they tend to eat high-calorie food during breakfast. They are also likely to eat chips and stodgy pudding at lunch and dinner.

The depressing figures and statistics make it difficult for the British army to live up to its reputation for good performance and efficiency.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think it is fair for the UK government to dismiss soldiers who fail the fitness assessment? Why or why not?
·         What other ways can the UK government do to improve the diet of the soldiers?

Discussion B

·         How important is it to have physically fit soldiers? Please explain.
·         How can soldiers be motivated to become physically fit?

September 2, 2014