The Boy Scouts of America’s new fitness standards for participating in the organization’s annual Jamboree are so rigorous they would not just exclude chubby tenderfoots — they would even bar many NFL players.
All Scouts were required to have a physical exam in advance of the Jamboree and those with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater were barred from participating at this year’s gathering, which features strenuous activities such as hiking, rock climbing, rappelling and biking. Scouts with BMIs between 32 and 39.9 had to provide additional health information to take on the 1,000-plus acre Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia. But critics told FoxNews.com excluding obese Boy Scouts goes against the spirit of the organization.
Patricia Bannan, a registered dietician and author of “Eat Right When Time Is Tight,” told FoxNews.com she found no issue with the guidelines, but said those who were excluded from the fitness competition should still be allowed to participate in some modified way.
“I’m sure they put a lot of thought into this and consulted with medical experts,” Bannan said. “But a BMI of 39.9 or higher is really high. The obesity rating for BMI is actually 30 or greater and in comparing them to NFL players, those NFL players are very likely to have very high muscle mass. And since BMI is a calculation of weight to height, it’s not a very good indicator for people who are athletes. These children with 39.9 or higher BMIs are probably not coming from a high muscle density.”
But severely overweight and obese Scouts should still be able to participate in some “altered” kind of competition if they are deemed unfit for the Jamboree, Bannan said.
“Unfortunately it still does exclude children due to their weight, but I’m sure they’re looking at their health and potential negative health consequences,” she said. “But maybe they could walk [the course] or do what they can and not be excluded. Anything that the Boy Scouts could do to compensate for the stigma of being excluded would be great.”
The Council on Size & Weight Discrimination said it "deplores" the Boys Scouts decision, calling it "an unfair and discriminatory policy."
"There are boy scouts who are heavier than average but extremely fit and capable of strenuous physical activity. At the same time, it is patently absurd to assume that just because a boy is thin, that means he is capable of a three-mile hike up a mountain," the group said in a statement.
The average NFL player would qualify for the 10-day competition, but by no means would the entire league. The average BMI for an NFL player for the 2012 season was 31.35, according to SportingCharts.com, well above the normal range of 18.5-24.9 as set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At 45.64, Michael Jasper of the New York Giants had the highest BMI last season, the website reported. The league’s average nose tackle – with a BMI of 40.50 – would also be ineligible for the Boy Scout’s Jamboree.
Although anyone with a BMI above 25 would be classified as overweight and anyone above 30 would be considered obese, the figure is not a direct measure of body fatness.
“As a result, some individuals may have a high BMI but not have a high percentage of body fat,” according to the CDC’s website on BMI. “For example, highly trained athletes may have a high BMI because of increased muscularity rather than increased body fatness. Although some people with a BMI in the overweight range (from 25.0 to 29.9) may not have excess body fatness, most people with a BMI in the obese range (equal to or greater than 30) will have increased levels of body fatness.”
Still, CDC officials consider BMI to be a “fairly reliable” indicator of body fatness for most people and is derived by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches squared and multiplying by a factor of 703.
Overweight (25-29.9 BMI) and obese (30 and above) individuals, meanwhile, are at increased risk for many diseases and health conditions, including hypertensions, heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes.
Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, told FoxNews.com in a statement that it's unclear how many potential participants were impacted by the BMI requirement.
"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," Smith's statement read. "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."
A spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of the USA declined to comment on the BMI limit when contacted by FoxNews.com.
“This is in no way our policy,” the spokeswoman said.
Tanya Zuckerbrot, a New York-based dietitian, said youngsters with BMIs of40 or greater have a higher risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke during the competition.
“And the BSA is obligated to care for these individuals,” Zuckerbrot said in a statement. “We don’t believe the BSA is equipped to adequately supervise a youth who is morbidly obese.”
Scouts who don’t meet that requirement, however, should be accommodated with physical activities and fitness education to help them adopt “new behaviors” and a healthier lifestyle.
The Jamboree was held every four years from 1981 to 2010 in Fort A.P. Hill, Va. In 2009, after reviewing more than 80 sites in 28 states, southern West Virginia was chosen as the Jamboree’s new location. More than 40,000 Scouts, volunteers and staffers are expected to join up to 50,000 visitors during the competition.
“The Boy Scouts were built on the outdoors, and the Summit is built on epic adventure,” Boy Scouts of America President Wayne Perry said in a statement released earlier this month. “Since the groundbreaking in 2010, a wonderful transformation has taken place at this Scouting venue in the beautiful hills of West Virginia, with more than 1,000 West Virginians helping with construction efforts. This truly is a world-class facility for both the Scouting family and the people of West Virginia to be proud of and enjoy for years to come.”