The Israel Defense Forces’ personnel – especially those in desk jobs, but even those in combat units – are getting fat.

“The obesity epidemic has not skipped the IDF,” said Prof. Itamar Raz, Hadassah University Medical Center’s leading metabolism and diabetes expert and head of the Israel Forum for a Healthy Lifestyle.

Raz spoke on Thursday to announce the November launch of “IDF Fitness and Health Month,” aimed at increasing awareness of the need for a healthy lifestyle in the military.

The diabetes unit director noted that many soldiers gain significant amounts of weight during their service and do not exercise or eat properly. The awareness month is only one step toward the goal of all IDF personnel changing their lifestyles and improving their health, he added.

The forum has been working closely over the last two years with the IDF’s unit on fitness for combat soldiers. The new campaign is meant to upgrade the cooperation. The group of physicians and public health experts said they would provide the IDF with all the knowhow on sports, medicine and nutrition necessary for reducing obesity.

Almost half of the country’s population is overweight, and a third of these people are obese. Some 500,000 are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

Already, half a million have been diagnosed with it, and an equal number have undiagnosed diabetes. By 2030, two million Israelis are expected to be diabetic or suffering from pre-diabetes, Raz stated.

The forum and the IDF held a fitness day for commanders on Wednesday at the Wingate Institute for Physical Education near Netanya. Participants were asked to sign a commitment to pursue a healthy lifestyle in the IDF on a daily basis by promoting physical activity, proper diet and drinking water.

Nir Laor, the forum’s directorgeneral, said his organization aimed at disease prevention and health promotion on a national, local and personal level.

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