Students fail army fitness standards
Excess weight, shortsightedness are cited as major problems
Beijing’s army recruitment efforts have been increasingly hampered in recent years by a decline in the physical fitness of candidates, with many being ruled unsuitable due to common complaints such as being overweight or shortsighted.
According to Beijing’s army recruitment office, around 60 percent of college students who apply for military service fail the physical fitness exam, posing a serious problem for the recruitment of college graduates into the army.
Most graduates are overweight or lack physical strength due to their sedentary lifestyles, with many also suffering from poor eyesight, according to the recruitment office.
More than 23 percent of the applicants failed to pass the eyesight exam, while 19 percent were either obese or underweight.
The army’s recruitment season for the capital runs from June to September, and many students see the military as a suitable employment option upon leaving higher education.
“I would definitely give it a try if I’m fit enough, because many boys dream of becoming a soldier. But it’s too unrealistic for me considering my fat belly,” said Zhao Chaokun, a college student in Beijing.
The office says the issue of declining fitness affecting the recruitment figures is not new. Last year’s figures were also disappointing, with poor eyesight, obesity, urine abnormalities and osteoarthritis among the most prominent issues.
The issue first reached the attention of military recruiters some years ago, and steps were taken to adjust to new realities. The capital has twice lowered standards for physical fitness for those applying for military service, first in 2008 and again 2011.
Xing Wenhua, a professor at Beijing Sport University who has been researching the physical health of young people since 1985, said the declining physical condition of the younger generation has not only affected their daily life, but also hampered the development of China’s armed forces.
“The physical condition of the Chinese students has been declining ever since 1995, both in strength and stamina,” he said.
“The better living standards and an overemphasis on academic excellence has resulted in too many weak kids in the country,” he said.
Xing’s point is echoed by Liu Bo, head of the sports department at Tsinghua University.
“The physical condition of college students has been deteriorating for a long time,” Liu said.
“It’s not possible to improve the physical condition of the students rapidly. We have ignored the importance of exercise since childhood because of the increasing pressure to gain entry to educational institutions,” he said.
In 2010 the Ministry of Education and General Administration of Sport researched health and fitness levels in 995 educational institutions from 31 provinces and regions. The research found that heart and lung function in undergraduates had fallen by 10 percent since 1985.
Obesity and myopia continue to increase for elementary and middle-school students due to the heavy academic workload and the overuse of computers, it said.
The capital’s army recruitment office said that in order to recruit more students for military service, another round of recruitment has been planned for September, which means the students will be given another chance to improve their physical condition for a second attempt.
College students intending to join the army take eyesight tests at a Beijing hospital on Saturday. A Beijing Sport University professor says students’ physical condition “has been declining since 1995”.