A recent leaked memo suggested that Britain’s war effort in Afghanistan was being hindered by a number of frontline troops who are too fat to fight.

The UK Ministry of Defence confirmed it had directed military chiefs to ensure units are following Army fitness policy after concerns were raised over a “worrying trend of obesity”.

The leaked memo further said: “Concerns about obesity throughout the Army are clearly linked to current attitudes towards physical training.”

There are 3,860 Army personnel classified as PUD — personnel unable to deploy — with a further 8,190 regarded as being of “limited deploy ability” for medical reasons, it was reported.

When soldiers risking their lives to protect a country are failing to motivate themselves to get in physical shape, the Army’s system of bootcamp training and nutrition must be brought into question. The terrain and climate of Afghanistan is a massive challenge on the body, which has to deal with heat, dehydration and the stresses of war.

The body should be in peak condition to deal with this, but the diet of a soldier involves processed tinned foods that will eventually play havoc on the body’s digestive system.

In the early 1970s, Dennis Burkett studied Ugandans and compared their colon health to that of British soldiers stationed in Uganda. Burkett observed that the quicker colon transit time of the Ugandans on a fibre-rich diet coincided with a low risk of cancer and other digestive tract diseases.

This was opposed to the British soldiers on a fibre-poor diet from tinned foods. That finding is what launched the modern fibre craze.

In Ireland, the Garda Siochana are responsible for protecting our great country. Training to be a member of the force is divided into five phases and lasts two years. Initially, students spend 22 weeks at the Garda College in Templemore, followed by a period of 24 weeks spent at selected stations under the direct supervision of tutorial staff.

Successful candidates will also be required to undergo an exacting medical exam by a medical practitioner. This is to ensure they are of good mental and bodily health and free from any defect or abnormality likely to interfere with the efficient performance of their duties.

In 2003, the Garda Review magazine voiced concern that student Gardai were leaving the college with lower fitness levels than when they joined, due to poor facilities available in the college.

The facilities may have since improved but the physical condition of the Gardai has not. The standard of physical fitness for females is to complete a mile-and-a-half run in under 15 minutes.

This is hardly world-record pace and the worrying aspect is that as soon as the garda graduates, there are no regular fitness-testing procedures in place.

A garda will at times need to run, climb walls and use physical strength to apprehend and arrest a criminal. This requires consistent conditioning.

The Garda Siochana does not allow recruits to be overweight, as it will inhibit the efficient performance of their duties, but allow a garda to become overweight after he has graduated, which too will inhibit performance.

There are two key points here — standards and gyms in every station. If we want our Gardai to reach new standards to keep our streets safe, we must provide them with the facilities, testing and knowledge to fulfill their potential as officers.

The Gardai have a tough and challenging job that at times is stressful. Physical fitness and exercise is a means that improves confidence, self-esteem and in a stressful job provides a medium of release.

If you are an officer, it is never too late to implement a lifestyle change. The Japanese say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the next best time is now.

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