Boy Scouts To Backpackers: Get In Shape

New rules cut heavier Scouts out of backpacking, 'extreme' activities
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New rules cut heavier Scouts out of backpacking, 'extreme' activities

Ah, the Boy Scouts: Many an American male received his first true introduction to the outdoors from this organization, by learning how to camp, hike, and generally experience the outdoors from a group of caring adults. (Personally, I never made it past a few months of Cub Scouts, but that had more to do with the scoutmaster's whiny kid and his general distaste for the outdoors. All he wanted to do was drink Pepsi and watch Voltron, so Daddy made sure that's all we did. Weak.)

Anyway, for all their pluses, the BSA isn't exactly known as a bastion of inclusion, and they're about to raise the hackles of yet another group: the obese. New health regulations will exclude boy scouts with body-mass indexes that point toward obesity from participating in "high adventure" activities like long-distance hiking and backpacking.

The regulations don't take effect till January, but some scouts and adults are wondering whether these new requirements might have negative effects. Some even call into to question the idea of using BMI to evaluate overall health or fitness.


“Why not insist on...something that would actually measure cardiovascular fitness?” wondered Dr. Daniel Kirschenbaum, clinical director of Wellspring in Chicago, which runs weight loss camps, after school programs and academies across the country.

“Studies on obese adults show about 9 percent are in pretty good shape from a cardiovascular standpoint,” he said.

There's also the worry that excluding out-of-shape kids from outdoor activities might prevent them from an experience that could inspire them into getting into shape in the first place. Then again, unprepared scouts (and especially their scoutmasters) have to get rescued by SAR people every year.

Anything to get 'em to drop the Pepsi and head outside, or 'be prepared' to drop a few? What say all you former Scouts in BACKPACKER-dom? We know you're out there...

—Ted Alvarez

Too fat for the Boy Scouts? (Chicago Tribune)