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Army raises weight standards for women

Officials say new limits take body type into account

ARLINGTON, Va. — In a move officials say acknowledges the fact that women come in different body shapes, the Army has raised its weight standards for females across the board.

The new regulations, which went into effect Monday, allow female soldiers to weigh anywhere from six to 19 pounds more than was previously permitted, depending on their height and age.

The standards for the maximum percentage of body fat women soldiers are permitted to carry, however, remain unchanged, according to Army regulation 600-19.

The new rules “are trying to be more reflective of actual women’s body types,” Army Lt. Col. Norman Wade, an Army spokesman, told Stripes on Wednesday.

The regulation had not been updated since 1987.

Army officials decided to take a look at the weight charts because they were “hoping to reduce the [number of] soldiers being put into the Army weight control program,” according to Master Sgt. Charles Timms, a senior enlisted adviser in the Army’s personnel division.

“We saw many women were being introduced into the weight control program due to the stereotype that all females are basically shaped the same,” Timms told Stripes on Wednesday.

Some of these women, Timms said, were not necessarily fat or unfit. They just had body types that gave them the appearance of being overweight.

Army officials conducted surveys and read research papers on the topic of women’s health and fitness and how it relates to body composition, “and we found that stereotype to be false,” Timms said.

By increasing the maximum allowable weights, but not the maximum allowable body fat percentages, the Army is “identifying what’s really out there in society” but not compromising the Army’s standards, Timms said.

For example, women 17 to 20 years old who are 67 inches tall, or 5 feet 7 inches, can now weigh up to 159 pounds, instead of 145 pounds.

A woman that height who is 21 to 27 years old can weigh up to 161 pounds, instead of 149 pounds.

A female soldier who is 28 to 39 years old can now weigh 163, up from 154, and one who is more than 40 years old can weigh up to 166 pounds, instead of 159 pounds.

Maximum allowable body fat percentages for women in the following age groups are: for 17-20, 30 percent; for 21-27, 32 percent; for 28-39, 34 percent; and for women 40 and older, 36 percent.

Once Army officials concluded that “various females have various shapes and sizes …. We had to redesign and revamp the measuring process,” Timms said, so the updated regulation also changes the places women soldiers are measured.

Instead of using the neck, forearm, wrist and hips, female soldiers are now measured around the neck, waist and hips, Timms said.

The weight standards for men have not been updated, Timms said, and neither has the process for measuring men: They are still measured around the neck and abdominals.

The Marine Corps has stricter weight standards than the Army. Body fat is limited to a maximum of 18 percent for males and 26 percent for females regardless of age, according to spokeswoman Staff Sgt. Christina Delai.

The Marines do not make allowances for age in their weight tables, either, Delai said.

The Navy is the same as the Marine Corps, gearing its weight tables to height and sex, but making no allowances for age, according to spokesman Mike McLellan.

In the Air Force, recruits must meet weight standards in order to join, and the weight chart for men and women recruits is identical: for example, the maximum entry weight for a recruit who is 5 feet 5 inches tall is 165 pounds, and the minimum weight is 114 pounds, according to Air Force regulations.

Once an airman is accepted into the force, however, the service no longer uses a weight chart. Instead, airmen are judged according to body mass index, which uses a mathematical formula that calculates body fat relative to height and weight.


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