Physical activity is one of the best ways to help prevent and control heart disease. It can lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol levels, and control your weight. It also can reduce your risk of other serious conditions, including Type 2 Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and even some cancers. In addition, exercise can improve your mood and boost your energy. As a first responder, exercise can help you strengthen your muscles, increase your endurance, and be better prepared for the rigorous activities required of you.
Many firefighters assume they are getting exercise simply because they are a firefighter. However, often the exercise you get from fire service activities is not enough. Many fire departments do not require their personnel to stay physically active and maintain a healthy physical condition. On-duty firefighters often have large amounts of sedentary time in between calls. Additionally, volunteer firefighters often have other jobs that are less physically demanding than being a firefighter.
You need to make the effort to ensure your body is ready for the call. Firefighting by nature includes lengthy bouts of sedentary time separated by intense periods of very strenuous activities. A study done at Texas A&M University showed the cardiovascular system of a firefighter is often pushed to the limit when responding to calls and often these firefighters are less than optimally prepared for the rigors of their occupations. Another study from Harvard Medical School found that firefighters face a much higher risk of dying from heart problems while responding to an emergency than while performing non-emergency activities. Fire suppression was associated with the highest risk of coronary heart disease, calculated at approximately 10 to 100 times higher than the risk during down time.
Functional fitness is an important part of making sure you are ready to respond safely, effectively, and efficiently. There are many exercises that can be done while at the station and using only items that can easily be found in a firehouse. Fitness can also be incorporated into department training activities, to ensure firefighters and EMTs are strengthening the muscles they will need to use in real-world emergency situations.
The key to incorporating fitness into your lifestyle is to get moving. Utilize spare time to bring fitness into your daily routine, such as taking more walks, participating in sports games, or doing multiple smaller exercise sessions throughout the day instead of one longer session. Make it a family initiative to get active; utilize quality time with the family to hike, take an aerobics class together, play basketball or soccer, or other active pursuits. Challenge other members of your department to focus on fitness so you can be there to support and encourage each other in your efforts.
Use the menu options to the left to learn more about fitness and find tips and resources for getting active.