The findings, published by South Carolina military college The Citadel, the US Army Public Health Center and the American Heart Association, reveal that regardless of gender, soldiers from those states are 22 to 28 percent more likely to be injured during training.
"Our results suggest that the states identified here pose a greater threat to military readiness than do other states. Each recruit lost to injury has been estimated to cost the Department of Defense approximately $31,000," reads the study, published earlier this month in the Public Health Management and Practice journal.
The report also warns that "physical inactivity and obesity are well recognized among the most critical public health challenges of the 21st century," explaining that one third of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are too overweight to meet military service requirements.
The aim of the analysis, led by Citadel Health, Exercise and Sport Science professor Daniel Bornstein, is to motivate those states and their federal organizations to establish policies that encourage more physically active lifestyles.
"It is our hope that the states identified through this analysis, along with federal entities, work to establish policies and environments proven to support physically active lifestyles," Bornstein said in recent statement.
"If such actions were taken, physical fitness levels among residents of these states would rise and each state's disproportionate burden on military readiness and public health could be minimized," he added.
According to retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, the findings are a disturbing insight into the real national security threat posed by obesity and physical inactivity.
"I know firsthand the challenges faced in addressing the fitness levels of our youth after having served as commander of all US Army basic training units," Hertling said.
"While commanding in combat, I saw the effect training-related injuries had on mission accomplishment [and] in basic training, the number of unfit recruits forced changes to our physical training procedures and dining menus," he added.
More US soldiers come from the South than from any other US region.