Lewis Bowling: Will the military lower physical standards?

Feb. 20, 2013 @ 09:45 PM

I have no problem with the military’s recent announcement that women can now serve in combat units. I just hope that the physical standards are not eventually lowered to help more women qualify, and it seems that is the military’s intentions, as of now. As it is, recognition of gender differences in physical attributes are made in fitness tests administered, such as the Army requiring a 17- to 26-year-old man to run two miles in 15 minutes, 54 seconds or less and do at least 42 pushups. For women in the same age group, the standard is 18 minutes and 54 seconds in the two mile run and to be able to do at least 19 pushups. A Marine man 17 to 26 years old has to run three miles in 28 minutes or less while women of the same age group have to run the three miles in 31 minutes or less.
It is just the plain truth that, on average, men are stronger, faster, and can lift more and do it for a longer time, among other fundamental biological differences among men and women. That is no knock on women; women do many things better than men. So it is OK to have different fitness scales for men and women, such as listed above, but there should be gender neutral standards for serving in combat roles, and this is what top military brass are promising now. I do wonder as we move along with this new policy, and if the standards stay gender neutral, as they should, women may not qualify in very high numbers. In that case, there may be demands that the physical standards be lowered, and in that case, our military’s ability will be lowered. Not good for anybody in America, be you a man or woman.
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I don’t usually tout “celebrity trainers,” as I think most reality shows are about as “real” as I am about to win a beauty contest, and you can tell from my picture that is not going to happen any time soon. But I really liked Jillian Michael’s response recently to a question about what people should know about weight loss. As you may know, Michaels is a fitness trainer on television’s “The Biggest Loser” program. She said, “Stop turning to fad diets and use common sense. This where so many people go wrong from cutting out all carbs to eating only fat-free foods to fasting to the Master Cleanse diet. It’s all bull. Eat sensible, stop eating when you are full, and exercise.” Way to go, Jillian, I say. Think about it; go to a book store and you will find dozens of books, all claiming their diet is the new secret to weight loss and health. Here is a little “secret” that just might work for most of us: eat less and exercise more.
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One of my all-time favorite Duke basketball players is Mason Plumlee, on this year’s team. And I write that from a perspective of studying and writing about Duke basketball going back to 1905, the very first year Duke played the game. I spoke to a class at Duke a year or so ago, and after the class, this All-American player wanted to ask me about what I do, when he was the literal “big man on campus.” But Mason really showed what he is made of in the loss to Maryland last week. He had probably his worst game of the year, scoring only 4 points, and quite frankly, getting outplayed by Maryland big man Alex Len, but after the game, when some would offer excuses, such as feeling tired after Duke played three games in 7 days, said, “I just have to show up. I didn’t show up to play today, and I let my teammates down. It’s all on me.” Now that’s called being a man, and standing taller than his usual 6 feet 10 inches.
Lewis Bowling teaches at N.C. Central University and Duke University. He is the author of several books on fitness and sports. His website is www.lewisbowling.com. He can be reached at 919-530-6224 and at Lewis_Bowling@yahoo.com.