Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, July 15, 2013
When this year’s Boy Scouts of America Jamboree in West Virginia starts Monday, the competition will include a whole new set of rules – including restrictions on how fit the participants are.
The new guidelines prohibit Boy Scouts that are considered obese from participating in the 10-day adventure trip, which includes whitewater rafting, rock climbing, rappelling and biking. The organization is using the body mass index measurement – which calculates one’s body fat percentage based on their height and weight – to determine obesity; those with a BMI of 40 or higher will be banned from participating while those with a BMI of 32 to 39.9 will be required to provide additional documentation to Jamboree medical staff confirming they are healthy enough to participate, according to The Associated Press.
“Part of the design in building this site was to address the need for physical fitness in our youth, which of course is a longstanding component of Scouting,” said Dan McCarthy, director of the BSA’s Summit Group, told the AP. “We saw this as an opportunity to integrate some new challenges … so we deliberately spread the site to enable us to encourage Scouts and basically require Scouts to move about the site by foot.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 18 percent of Americans between the ages of 6 and 19 are considered to be obese.
McCarthy concedes that the health restrictions are for the scouts’ benefits, as this year the scouts and their leaders – who are also subject to the health restrictions – will participate in a 3-mile hike up a mountain at the Summit Bechtel Family Nature Scout Reserve.
“We required a level of fitness in order to come to the Jamboree that we haven’t required before,” McCarthy continued. “And that has motivated an enormous return in terms of both kids and adults getting serious about improving their health.”
The scouts also made sure to publish the new requirements well in advance of next week’s Jamboree to give them time to get in shape.
“Teaching scouts and scouters how to live a sustainable life, which includes a healthy lifestyle, and the health of our participants are important goals of the jamboree. We published our height weight requirements years in advance and many individuals began a health regimen to lose weight and attend the jamboree. But, for those who couldn’t, most self-selected and chose not to apply,” Deron Smith, a spokesman for the BSA, said in a statement to ABC News.
This is the first year the Jamboree will be held at the Summit Bechtel Family Nature Scout Reserve. Throughout most of its history the Jamboree was held at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, however in 2009 West Virginia won the rights to become the new home of the national Jamboree. The new venue includes a 786-foot suspension bridge, Olympic-sized pools, 50 mountain bike trails, a skateboard park and the opportunity to earn scuba diving licenses, according to the AP.