Help! I Need to Lose Weight to Join Military

Losing Weight to Join Military

Here is an email that I have received about 50–60% of the time over the past five years.

“Stew, I am trying to join the military but the recruiter says I need to lose 25lbs in order to meet the height weight standards for the Army.  Needless to say, I am not in that good of shape either.  What do I do — where do I start?”

Yes, it is true.  Unfortunately, it is not lack of a high school diploma, disqualifying medical issues, or having criminal record that are the number one reason why our young men and women cannot join the military (any branch).  It is failing to meet the height, weight and body fat standards.

Though it is possible to enter the military just barely inching under the body fat standards, it is not recommended to be 20+% body fat when entering.  To ensure your own personal health during boot camp or basic training, try to build up your fitness level to not be hovering around the minimum standards and get your body fat at least under 20%.  This will help you tremendously with physical training and long days of military indoctrination wear on your body.  Going in too heavy and under fit only adds to your stressful life at boot camp.  In other words, do not let the minimum standards in either the PT scores or your body fat percentage be your goal prior to entering.

Here is how you start on your fitness journey:  Start out by going to military​.com article archive and read as many articles as you can about running, swimming, pushups, pullups, situps, special forces, and bootcamp, nutrition and MORE.  Then start moving several months or a year prior to your enlistment date.

But here is a free starter plan that will help with both weight loss and building a foundation of fitness - 45 Day Plan

and a running plan for beginners and others and a food plan — to help with healthier eating ideas /​ weight loss.  It is recommended if you are overweight and have never run before to start your cardiovascular exercise using non-​​impact options like biking, rowing, elliptical gliding, swimming, etc.

Fast Weight Loss — Do NOT try to lose 20 lbs in 20 days!  This is not the way to lose weight long term.  Take your military fitness preparation seriously.  One day your fitness will save your life so do yourself a favor and be fully prepared to serve.  Your body will thank you for not making it endure a daily beat down of unprepared muscles, tendons, and bones.

For other PFT and running programs check out the more advanced articles in the archive or see the PFT specific ebooks and books at the Fitness Book /​ eBook Store.



  1. michael says:

    What a contrast to the late actor Jimmy Stewart (architecture degree, Princeton, 1932) who was so skinny he was rejected at first after Pearl Harbor. He was told to go home, fatten up and come back to the army depot. He did, and became a DFC USAAF command pilot of B-​​24s in Europe. Now we have many, 18–24, who are too fat or have serious legal problems.

  2. Ken says:

    If you are fat, dont bother going into the Military and wasting your time and mine. You obviously lack self discipline and will eventually be the same way if you even make it through basic. I see fat soldiers coming to units and can\‘t even achieve the minimum standards on a APFT. So do all of us Marines and Soldiers a favor, stay out and go to college.……

    Semper Fi

    • Josh says:

      **** you hypocrit. just because you are a marine does nothing to make you better than anyone. you are the type of person that should not be allowed to join a branch of the military for you attitude. Is this how you represent your branch and your country. You are pathetic and should be ashamed of yourself.

    • cj says:

      hey!!!! listen i am fat and can say that. but im doing my self a favor and loseing weight so i can join. your just being a stick up b**** and need to learn about how everyone can serve. its not u who has to worry about us fat people. if we wanna lose weight and serve then we can. so shut your stupid a** mouth. anyways. marines suck, thats y ppl join the army and navy because ppl in the marines do nothing. i have and uncle who was a marine and transfered to the army. he did nothing. now he got deployed in the army. hes a to him, i bet u, u would get your a** beat.

  3. Nadine says:

    Ironically I am having the exact opposite issue..I\‘ve been trying to join for years now and never could because I didn\‘t weigh enough..FINALLY..all these years later I gained 15lbs to the minimum weight and I can join..of course now the Army doesn\‘t need people so much..go figure

  4. David says:

    Wait wait a second. The initial tag line on the article talked about height as well… If I could grow a few more inches I can finally dunk!! Did no one else pick up on that? Or was that a test? Too funny, if that is the case I\‘ll do whatever job they give me!

  5. kay says:

    its not really professional for you to judge other people. because you think that you have it all does not mean the anyone else wants to hear about your opinion. keep your opinion to yourself.

  6. Jack says:

    Im only 16 years old, 5\“8, and 160 pounds. i have always wanted to join the military. (need to lose weight and build more mustle.) throughout my freshman year of high school I was 189 pounds in the beginning, at the end I was 167 pounds. After the summer I was exactly 140 pounds sophomore year and during that time my family kept on buying allot of fattening foods full of carbs and sugar. Obviously I started to gain it back, I went from 140–155 at the end of the school year. Over the summer I gained myself up to 160 (mainly because lack of excersize and I got to admit ima gamer who was playing all summer…) the difference between my summer before sophomore year and my summer before junior year is during my first summer I was running 2–4 (sometimes over 4 ) miles during the week with a diet that I had, some days of the week I did about 30 push-​​ups every 3–4 hours. Every day I would water my fathers crops (or could be referred to as a vegetable garden that was about a medium sized) where I would walk down each and every row with a 4–5 gallon bucket of water and water everything. In the middle of this summer I bought a ps3 which got me into video games even more than I already was.… After the summer ended I started school where my eating time shifted, I would eat around 12 in the summer and that school year I had it around 3 pm (I feel weird eating around people at school so wait till I get home). Breakfast and dinner where the same as always. But one that really changed was the way I was eating and the exercise I got. All the time I was in school was time that I would normally be active as in my runs, work-​​outs, etc. then my family started getting allot of fattening foods and snacks and decorated the kitchen with them (so supportive.….). So when I got home I was tired from a long day and would do some school work then get on my ps3. During the school years ever seance middle school I have uncontrollably been depriving myself of sleep which was no problem in the summer because I actually sleep very well in the summer. So when my second summer came up I was really into the idea of losing the weight I gained but unfortunately I spent my whole second summer inside playing video games with little exercise. Ik that it was a bad decision but once u get into gaming today it\‘s somewhat hard to get off. I am a junior in high school now and throughout this year I want to get in shape and eat healthier while still being able to live my life as a student and a gamer. Joining the army has been a long dream of mine for the longest time and I want to get into top shape so I can be able to fit the standards of the army and serve this free country :) btw is under looked by many of the kids in my school not realizing how free they actually are compared to places in the rest of the world. Sorry throughout this post I mentioned allot of out of subject things. I believe if you work hard for your goal you\‘ll defiantly make it@ every one else who is trying to lose weight and get fit to join the military.

  7. Justin Shaw Wv says:

    You know what I hate the most? A country who wont let me serve!!!! Yeah, i’m 249 pounds. But if you knew me last year you wouldn’t recognize me! I used to weigh 350 I have a mess of body fat I know this is my fault, but i’m in the best shape of my life and guarantee that beyond a doubt I could outdo a very large number of army/​marine recruits! It just really upsets me that because in the words of the recruiter im “too fat for our Army” I responded with anger and outright disappointment towards this man! What makes him special? What makes him better than me? I can run 2 miles in 13:49 70 pushups in 1:30 65 situps in the same amount, can easily complete the obstacle course at the local police dept. and did I mention I scored 86 on the pre-​​test asvab in the rec. office? Completely absurd how I can’t fight, serve, and protect my country but a low life piece of shit can do what I dream of. I’m almost ashamed.…..

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Stew Smith

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

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