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Retired generals to young Minnesotans: You're too fat to fight

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Hundreds of retired generals and admirals are sending out a May Day alert about military preparedness in Minnesota. Most of the state's young people are not physically fit enough for military service, the new report from the group Mission: Readiness says.

Mission: Readiness consists of more than 500 retired military leaders. They call their report "Too Fat, Frail, and Out-of-Breath to Fight." (Read the full 16-page report here)

Obesity, the report says, is the leading reason 69 percent of Minnesota's young adults are not qualified for the military. Asthma is another important factor, disqualifying ten percent, according to the report.

To improve the situation, the generals recommend that schools serve healthier meals and make physical education a higher priority. They also want neighborhoods to encourage more physical activity – especially walking or biking to school.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Dennis Schulstad tells the Pioneer Press when he heard that only 13 percent of youngsters get to school on their own, "I could hardly believe that stat. In most cases these kids can bike or walk."

As the Star Tribune notes, the report says fewer than one-fourth of Minnesota's high school students get the recommended hour of physical activity per day.

Mission: Readiness says health problems also extend to young people already serving in the military: the obesity rate among active duty personnel has climbed more than 60 percent since 2002, the report says, contributing to injuries which sometimes prevent troops from being deployed.

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The generals gave credit to some programs that are helping address the problem. They say the Safe Routes to School program has boosted the number of kids who walk or bike to class in Duluth, Robbinsdale, and on the Fond du Lac Reservation. They also cite the Bike Walk Twin Cities program.

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