Fitness is about more than looking and feeling good. For some, whose vocation is to save lives, it is critical to be in good physical shape for not only their own health and safety, but for those that they serve through their work. Today’s guest blog post by Rich Marinucci talks about the importance of fitness for firefighters.
Mr. Marinucci has worked with the fire service and emergency management for the past 33 years as a fire chief, author, faculty member, consultant, and advisor throughout the country and internationally. Additionally, he was the program director for the Everyone Goes Home program of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, whose goal is to reduce the number of preventable firefighter fatalities. So, you can see that he is very passionate about this topic.
The job of a firefighter requires individuals who are fit and healthy. The stresses of the actual work of a firefighter coupled with the unpredictable nature of the job create potential health hazards. Firefighters can be called upon to perform within minutes of awaking from a sound sleep. Weather conditions, toxic products of combustion, sick patients, and an unpredictable work environment add to the stress on the body.
In fact, statistics show that cardiovascular events are the leading cause of firefighter line-of-duty deaths. There is no way to change this, so the best way for a firefighter to survive and prosper is to be in good physical condition. Proper fitness will reduce the chances of injury, minimize the severity when an injury occurs, and shorten any required recovery or rehabilitation time.
Whether working as a career firefighter on 24-hour shifts (of some combination) or as a volunteer firefighter responding when needed, the schedule challenges many to stay fit. The irregular nature of the schedule challenges individuals to establish a routine. It takes a motivated individual to consistently exercise and to do the types of workouts that are most beneficial towards reducing the risk of becoming a statistic. Many departments offer assistive resources, such as workout equipment in the stations, but ultimately the responsibility belongs to the individual firefighter.
In most cases, the firefighters start their jobs physically fit due to hiring requirements. However, if they do not begin and maintain a regimen, they can fall into bad habits that can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. Add to this issue the natural aging process, and the potential for something bad to happen increases.
Regular check-ups by doctors familiar with the stresses and strains of firefighting, good eating habits, and regular exercise that is matched to the job requirements can help with a long career and hopefully lead to many years of retirement. It is never too late to start developing good habits. If you can do it by yourself, that is great. If you need help getting started and maintaining your program, finding someone who can help put together a program and keep you on track is worth the investment.