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Boy Scouts spell out fitness standards for summer Jamboree

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Significantly overweight Boy Scouts may want to skip dessert if they plan on attending this year's Jamboree, as officials are declaring those who are out of shape will be unable to participate.

The National Scout Jamboree will be held at The Summit: Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette and Raleigh counties in July and will feature high-adventure sports like ziplining, biking and swimming.

 While national Scout officials have declined interview requests, statements and videos on the Summit website make the fitness requirements clear.

"Jamborees at the Summit will be physically demanding experiences," said Dan McCarthy, Summit director, in a blog post.

"West Virginia is called the 'Mountain State' for a reason. While there are level areas, there are also regular changes in grade as you hike from point to point, and all movement will be on foot (no buses or personal vehicles)."

"It will be common to see 200-foot elevation changes as you move about the site (think of that as going up about 20 floors in an office building). A number of our activities require more stamina and fitness, too — think climbing, rappelling, rafting, mountain biking, and skateboarding."

Body mass index will be a deciding factor in determining whether a Scout or leader is able to attend the Jamboree.

If a person's BMI is 31.9 or less, the participant is generally allowed. If the BMI ranges from 32.0 to 39.9, the application will be reviewed by Jamboree health care professionals to confirm qualification to attend. Participants likely will be asked to provide additional information if in this range.

If the BMI is 40.0 or higher, the participant is ineligible.

A 5-foot-9 inch Scout would have to weigh just over 270 pounds to have a BMI of 40.

BMI is calculated by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches squared and multiplying by 703.  

For example, if a person weighs 150 pounds and is 5 feet 5 inches or 65 inches tall, the calculation would result in a BMI of 24.96.

The Centers for Disease Control suggests using BMI as a screening tool for obesity. The CDC's online BMI calculator can be found at">

In an email statement, National Jamboree Director Larry Pritchard said, "Scouting supports a healthy lifestyle, and Scouting's outdoor programs such as hiking, camping, swimming, climbing, and conservation reflect a commitment to physical wellness.

"Indeed, the Scout Oath includes the commitment 'to keep myself physically strong.'

"The health and safety of those attending the Jamboree is a joint effort among the BSA, parents, youth and volunteer leadership. As the newest high adventure base of the BSA, The Summit is a fun but physically demanding facility."

While BMI is one of the factors that will be taken into account when considering an individual's acceptance to the Jamboree, other minimum physical fitness standards will be enforced.

They include health history, submitted health data and recommendation of the applicant's personal health care provider. Risk factors would include hypertension, diabetes, tobacco use and prior heart attack.

"Anyone who is obese and has multiple risk factors for cardiovascular/cardiopulmonary disease would be at much greater risk of an acute cardiovascular/cardiopulmonary event imposed on them by the environmental stresses of the Summit," the facility's website states.

"Our goal is to prevent any serious health-related event from occurring, and ensuring that all of our participants and staff are 'physically strong.' "

The Jamboree will accept applications from those recommended for participation by their health care practitioner and having a BMI of 31.9 or less. The Jamboree also will uphold a decision by an applicant's personal health care practitioner to deny participation for medical reasons.

Applicants with a BMI greater than 31.9 but a recommendation of "no contraindications for participation" by their personal health care provider would not be guaranteed full jamboree participation. The Summit's medical staff would make the final decision.

West Virginia's Buckskin Council of the Boy Scouts of America will be taking 144 Scouts to the Jamboree, and no physical problems have surfaced yet, said Jeff Purdy, the council's scout executive.

"Part of being a Boy Scout is being physically fit," he said. "It's in the Scout oath. Generally speaking, our Scouts are very active anyway.

"One of the main activities for us is using the outdoors for camping, hiking, swimming. Our Scouts are pretty healthy as far as participating outdoors."

All participants are required to submit their health forms by April 14 so the national organization can evaluate them.  

The Boy Scouts provided information on the physical fitness requirements two years ago to give potential attendees an opportunity to prepare for the Jamboree in July.

Tico Perez, national commissioner of the Boy Scouts of America, has acted as a spokesman for this endeavor. He has lost more than 85 pounds since the initial announcement to meet the adventure requirements.

"The easiest and best thing to do is to take the time now," Perez says in a video on the website.

"I've made a personal commitment to get that BMI down below 32. I'm well on my way, but I've got a ways to go. I want you to join me. I want us to work together to be prepared for adventure."

The Boy Scouts of America also are addressing special needs at the Jamboree.

"Scouts with disabilities have always been able to attend BSA jamborees and are welcome to participate in a variety of activities at the Summit," Pritchard said.

"All of the activities in the Summit Center are wheelchair accessible as well as a few activities around the adventure areas."

The jamboree will be held July 15-24, and more than 50,000 scouts, volunteers and staff are expected to attend.

The 10,600-acre tract will remain the site of the jamboree in upcoming years, and the Boy Scouts of America have received commitments from donors in excess of $240 million for the area.

Contact writer Candace Nelson at or 304-348-5148. Follow her at


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