Fitness tests, continually used by the Finnish Armed Forces, indicate that overall conditions have deteriorated to a previously unseen level, with weight rising and muscle strength plummeting, national broadcaster Yle reported, calling the situation “worse than ever before”.
Finland has been using the so-called Cooper Test, devised by Kenneth Cooper for the US military in 1968, since 1975 and a muscle test of its own since 1983. This makes it possible to compare how each year's classes of draftees fare against each other.
The results show that today's conscripts are far less fit when compared with their fathers. The recent tests indicate that only one-third of the conscripts are fit.
In 1975, only 8 percent achieved weak results, while over 50 percent fared well or excellent. In 2017, by contrast, wholly 28 percent achieved a weak result, whereas only 32 percent complied with the demands or exceeded them.
In the Cooper Test, where the testees are asked to run as much as they can for 12 minutes, an average Finnish draftee covered 2,661 metres. In 2017, this figure sank to 2,402, with over 25 percent faring poorly.
In 2015, the average Finnish conscript jumped 222 centimeters and did 32 push-ups and 37 sit-ups in one minute. However, the Finnish Armed Forces are more worried by the spread than the drop in average results.
“The average doesn't say much unless you look at the spread. In the past, most people got a result that was somewhere in the middle, that is good or satisfactory. Today, there are those who perform at the top, while increasingly more people have really bad condition. This is a social problem”, Lieutenant Colonel Harri Koski, leading exercise manager, told Yle.
As opposed to the deteriorating strength and stamina, the conscripts' weight of has increased. In 1993, a draftee averaged 70.8 kilograms and had a body mass index of 22.3. Sixteen years later, 2017, a draftee averaged 77.6, with a BMI of 24.1, which is borderline overweight.
“What worries us is whether they manage to keep up their level of fitness afterwards. One year of service does not help much if you return to a sedentary life”, Harri Koski pointed out.
Finland's conscription-based armed forces number some 12,000 staff and over 20,000 conscripts; The nation's total military strength is listed as 280,000 personnel.
While universal conscription so far has been male-only, Finnish politicians have been toying with the idea of a more gender-equal army. Finland's conscripts' union recently suggested changing the country's obligatory military service so that women could also be compelled to join up if there are not enough available conscripts. However, a popular poll adamantly brushed aside the idea of an obligatory female draft. The Finnish Armed Forces have still reported a record number of female applicants for military service.