Management and Labor shall work together to provide workout scheduling,
CHAPTER 3 — Fitness
resource support, and/or access to resources on duty to support an
individualized fitness program.
This chapter highlights the following: management should work together through this program
to ensure full participation by all uniformed personnel.
Medical Clearance EQUIPMENT/FACILITIES
On-Duty Time for Exercise Many models exist to guide departments through the process
Equipment and Facilities of supplying and maintaining exercise equipment, whether
Exercise Specialists and Peer Fitness Trainers in every fire station or in regional fitness centers. The follow-
Incorporating Fitness Throughout the Fire Service ing steps detail some strategies that have proven successful.
• Step 1
The equipment should be evaluated for: design, reliability, ease
of maintenance, safety, and cost. Moreover, evaluation should
be conducted by personnel who will be using the equipment
and the peer fitness trainers who will instruct the membership
INTRODUCTION on its correct use. Evaluation information can and should be
Throughout the history of the fire service the proper im- shared between the participants of this Initiative.
plementation of fitness programs in fire departments has
been extensively debated. Research has demonstrated the • Step 2
need for high levels of aerobic fitness, muscular endurance, The allocation or raising of funds to purchase the equipment
muscular strength, muscular power, flexibility, and body should include funds in the budget process. Other sources are
composition in order to perform safely and effectively in also available to raise funds independent of the traditional
the fire service. Physical fitness is critical to maintaining budget process, such as FEMA, Assistance to Fire Fighters
the wellness of our uniformed personnel. Fitness must be Grant program, and other federal, state or provincial grants.
incorporated into the overall fire service philosophy. Several locals have bargained for a matching system where
each employee contributes a dollar every month and the city
While assessing uniformed personnel’s current fitness level or county matches it, either 1:1 or 1:2. This encourages own-
is an important part of developing an individualized fitness ership of the fitness program by both labor and management.
program, assessment is not, in itself, a fitness program. An
effective physical fitness program has several components • Step 3
that must be implemented. The elements necessary for a Initiate the bid process to purchase the selected equipment. If
successful and comprehensive physical fitness program are possible, small orders should be avoided because larger orders
highlighted throughout this chapter. Appropriate protocols usually provide a reduced cost per unit. Requests for Propos-
are referenced in Appendix A. als (RFPs) must be written specifically for the equipment that
was chosen by the above process. Ideally, the same equipment
MEDICAL CLEARANCE is available in all work locations. When purchasing cardio
Prior to involvement in any exercise regimen, including equipment consider purchasing the same equipment as that
the WFI fitness assessment, all uniformed personnel must used to conduct the fitness assessment.
be medically cleared in order to participate.
Methods of Acquiring Equipment
ON-DUTY TIME FOR EXERCISE To efficiently utilize allotted exercise time, adequate equip-
It is necessary to provide dedicated on-duty time for exer- ment and facilities for a total and balanced exercise pro-
cise to assist in promoting physical fitness. While schedul- gram must be made available to uniformed personnel.
ing on-duty time may vary due to emergency calls, training, Traditionally, equipment and facilities have been provided
and other duties, it is recommended that 60-90 minutes be in one of the following ways: exercise equipment placed
allotted for every shift. Uniformed personnel working ad- directly into each fire station; centralized fire department
ministrative shifts, 40-hours or otherwise, shall also be pro- locations where personnel can exercise; contracted fitness
vided the opportunity to exercise. The health, fitness, and center locations where personnel can exercise; use of out-
wellness of all uniformed personnel must be maintained as door alternative facilities such as track, high school, park or
a priority. This Initiative holds forth the idea that labor and local college/university.
The following summarizes various fitness facilities models:
Method of Equipment Placement Results Considerations
Equipment in every station 1. Uniformed personnel can use 1. Initial investment in equipment is
equipment at their convenience, large.
between emergency calls.
2. Equipment must be maintained.
2. Personnel are logistically in quarters
where they are strategically located 3. Number of peer trainers needed is
within their first due response area. increased; however, officers or moti-
vated fire fighters can be trained.
3. Different personnel can utilize equip-
ment at varied times during the shift.
Centralized fire department fitness 1. Uniformed personnel can use 1. Crews must work out together with
center equipment any time. no option for individual needs.
2. Less total expense in initial pur- 2. Crews may have to leave first due which
chase of equipment. leaves certain areas with less protection.
3. Peer trainers can work at fitness 3. Crew working out when receiving
center, providing some expertise. emergency calls is less likely to return
to complete the workout.
1. Crews must all workout together with
Contracted fitness center no option for individual needs.
1. Are usually outfitted with the most
modern equipment. 2. Crews must leave first due which
leaves certain areas with less
2. Usually have certified exercise pro- protection.
fessionals on site.
3. Crew working out when emergency
3. Multiple pieces of equipment al- call comes in is less apt to return to
lows several personnel to perform complete the workout.
the same exercises simultaneously.
4. Ongoing costs to fulfill contract may
4. Less initial cost for complete array make option more expensive in the
of exercise equipment. long term.
5. Perception by public of fire fighters
“playing” instead of going on emer-
6. Difficulty with listening to dispatch
radios – noise can be irritating to
7. Lack of Peer Fitness Trainers.
Outdoor Facility 1. Low cost 1. Inclement weather
2. Readily available 2. Extreme hot or cold temperatures
3. Public 3. Location
4. Maintenance of facility
Maintenance of Equipment Peer Fitness Trainers
Equipment must be maintained as established by the One role of the Peer Fitness Trainer (PFT) is to encourage
equipment manufacturer. Many exercise programs have safety and participation through their professional guid-
failed due to poorly maintained equipment. Poorly main- ance and supervision of uniformed personnel regarding
tained equipment is not only less rewarding to use, it is fitness issues. An integrated multi-level approach is rec-
also unsafe. Routine equipment inventory and inspections ommended, where the exercise professional trains and
must be done so that equipment can be accounted for, oversees multiple Peer Fitness Trainers. All fire department
maintained, repaired, and replaced when necessary. Fire PFTs should be certified through the IAFF/IAFC/ACE Peer
department Peer Fitness Trainers should be designated to Fitness Trainer certification program. All certified PFTs
ensure that all fitness equipment is kept in good condition. must maintain their certification through continuing ed-
ucation. In addition, they should be encouraged to sup-
Types of Necessary Equipment plement their professional certification with further
The following list is the suggested complement of equip- advanced training.
ment that should be available to all uniformed personnel
for a complete and balanced exercise program. Some recommended non-profit certification agencies that
provide advanced training include IAFF/IAFC/American
• Re s is tance E q ui pm ent Council on Exercise (ACE) PFT Program, National
Can include the following: power cage/squat rack, ad- Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), Ameri-
justable pulley machine, leg press/ hip sled machine, leg can College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Acad-
curl machine, adjustable bench, lat pull down/seated row emy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the Canadian Society of
machine, Olympic bar and an assortment of weights (it is Exercise Physiology (CSEP).
recommended that there is a minimum of 300 pounds),
dumbbells (it is recommended that there is a minimum of Certified PFTs have demonstrated the knowledge and skills
5 pounds to 80 pounds), floor mat for abdominal and flex- required to design and implement fitness programs, im-
ibility training, burst-resistant stability ball(s), medicine prove the wellness and fitness of uniformed personnel, as-
ball(s), and an assortment of resistance exercise bands sist in the physical training of candidates, incumbents, and
and/or tubing. recruits, as well as being able to influence the broader com-
munity in achieving wellness and fitness. Peer Fitness
• Ca r d i o v a s c u l a r E q u i p m e n t Trainers have an understanding of proper exercise tech-
Can include the following: commercial aerobic machines niques for uniformed personnel and have proven that they
such as treadmill, stationary bike, stair stepper, stepmill, have a broad scientific knowledge of exercise. Certifica-
elliptical cross trainer, or rowing ergometer. tion thus improves the credibility and safety of depart-
mental fitness programs. Certified PFT’s can be utilized in
EXERCISE SPECIALIST AND many ways, including: designing and supporting person-
PEER FITNESS TRAINERS alized fitness programs for uniformed personnel; educat-
A broad-based Fitness Committee including labor, man- ing company officers about fitness benefits; performing
agement, a fire department physician, and an exercise spe- yearly fitness assessments of incumbent personnel; evalu-
cialist should be established. A exercise specialist, together ating and maintaining fitness equipment; candidate men-
with properly trained Peer Fitness Trainers, can most effec- toring and orientation; CPAT administration, proctoring
tively disseminate the work of the Fitness Committee, while and data collection; educating new hires regarding the im-
enhancing and guiding the fitness efforts of all uniformed portance of fitness throughout their fire service career and
personnel. It is advisable to select Peer Fitness Trainers that beyond; and training recruits.
are demographically representative of the department.
Qualifications of the Exercise Specialist THROUGHOUT THE FIRE SERVICE
The exercise specialist should be chosen with care. Ideally, Individual Responsibilities
the professional exercise specialist should have a degree in The PFT should provide current information which ad-
exercise physiology, kinesiology, or a related field. A thor- dresses specific needs of uniformed personnel through in-
ough knowledge of the job of fire fighting is essential. The dividual fitness program design and implementation,
individual must be able to ride along, conduct job analy- nutrition counseling, and lifestyle coaching. Peer Fitness
ses, and remain current on literature pertaining to fitness Trainers should conduct themselves as role models and
and fire fighting. The individual’s ability to conduct on- ambassadors for this Initiative.
going research related to personal fitness and injury is an-
other desirable asset. In addition, excellent communication Individual responsibility of the PFT may include: initiating
and interpersonal skills are necessary. workout programs for their respective department; playing
an active role in healthy meal planning for their department;
participation in special projects and committees pertaining be collected and stored into a confidential database to be
to department fitness initiatives; commitment to the con- used for future fire service research.
tinuous educational process required to remain certified.
To ensure max imum saf e ty, uniformed personnel must be
Company Officers screened for any medical contraindications and instructed
The company officer is the formal leader of the crew, and in proper technique prior to performing any of the fitness
is responsible for their health, safety, and training. The evaluations. All department fitness assessments should be
company officer’s influence on the attitudes of the crew continuously evaluated to ensure that they are conducted
cannot be overstated. With continuing wellness education, correctly and consistently by appropriately trained de-
the officer can become a wellness agent for the department. partment fitness personnel.
Such education will ensure officers understand purpose,
scope, and implementation of wellness programs in the The fitness evaluation will assess five specific areas includ-
fire department. ing body composition, aerobic capacity, muscular strength
and power, muscular endurance, and flexibility.
Peer Fitness Trainers assigned to the academy can help in- This edition of the WFI contains significant revisions to the
corporate fitness into the culture of the fire department. fitness assessments as a result of a comprehensive review
They should be utilized to design an exercise program by the members of the WFI Technical Committee. All pro-
based upon the physical demands and workload of the tocols for this evaluation are referenced in Appendix A.
training academy environment.
Responsibilities of PFTs at the academy can include the The need for body composition measurements is neces-
following: overseeing and implementing the fitness pro- sary for a fitness evaluation and differentiates between the
gram to the recruits; educating recruits on all aspects of relative amounts of adipose tissue (fat) and lean body mass
maintaining wellness during their careers; monitoring the (LBM). LBM consists of muscle, bone, organs, nervous tis-
recruits for signs of overtraining, and adjusting training sue, and skin. Although some body fat is considered es-
programs to prevent exercise-related injuries; designing sential, excess body fat increases the workload and
post-academy exercise programs for the recruits and fol- amplifies heat stress by preventing the efficient dissipation
low up with recruits throughout their probationary pe- of heat when a person exercises. In addition, added body
riod; and providing a resource for the recruit training fat elevates the energy cost of weight-dependent tasks, such
officers to improve poor performance that may be related as climbing ladders and walking up stairs, as well as con-
to low levels of fitness. tributing to injuries and increasing the risk of many
chronic diseases. Obesity is associated with an increase of
Candidate Preparation many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease,
The Fire Service Joint Labor Management Wellness-Fitness hypertension, dyslipidemia, heart failure, diabetes, several
Task Force has developed a comprehensive Candidate Phys- types of cancer, asthma and chronic lung diseases, ob-
ical Ability Test (CPAT) program that includes a physical structive sleep apnea, dementia, arthritis, and gastro
ability preparation guide.1 This program will ensure that esophageal reflux disease.
new fire fighter candidates are more physically capable of
performing the challenging job of a fire fighter, while mak- Obesity is defined as more than 30 percent body fat for
ing it possible to improve the diversity of the fire service. women and more than 25 percent body fat for men. It is
important to determine the amount and distribution of
FITNESS EVALUATION body fat to monitor the health risk associated with obesity.
All uniformed personnel shall participate in a mandatory,
annual, non-punitive, and confidential fitness assessment. • Evaluation of Body Composition
Medical clearance must be obtained prior to the fitness as- There are many methods of estimating body composition
sessment. Once the fitness assessment is completed, the ex- and include: circumferential measurements, hydrostatic
ercise specialist should provide feedback to uniformed weighing, BodPod, bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA),
personnel and the department’s physician regarding the skinfold measurements, body mass index (BMI), and dual
individual’s physical capacity pertaining to his or her job. energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA).
The fitness evaluation and subsequent personalized feed- The accuracy, reliability and practicality of these methods
back from the exercise specialist will include: individual’s vary. The WFI has selected skinfold measurement as a re-
current level of fitness, comparison with previous fitness alistic method of assessing body composition. Skinfold
results (if available), identification of areas for possible im- measurement is a relatively accurate and inexpensive op-
provement, and a suggested exercise program. All data will tion, provided that the trainer is proficient with the tech-
nique. The accuracy of this estimation process depends on • Evaluation of Aerobic Capacity
the PFT’s ability to identify and measure the sites defined Accurate estimates of MaxVO2 are needed in order to ed-
by anatomical landmarks. ucate uniformed personnel on their present level of fitness
as it relates to the demands of their job. This information
The sum of the skinfold, along with the individual’s age, is used as a basis for a cardiovascular exercise prescription,
are plotted on a regression chart to estimate the percent- and helps uniformed personnel gauge the effectiveness of
age of body fat. Because men and women deposit fat dif- their program. The WFI Treadmill Protocol and the WFI
ferently, the sites are gender specific. The regression charts StepMill Protocol were adopted by the WFI as submaxi-
used by the WFI to estimate body fat are also gender spe- mal field tests for fire service personnel. Although the first
cific. The skinfold measurement will be collected at three edition of the WFI allowed for several other aerobic ca-
specific sites. Men are measured at the triceps, sub-scapu- pacity assessment protocols, these two were retained be-
lar and pectoral sites. Women are measured at the triceps, cause of the inherent advantages of practicality and
abdominal and suprailiac sites. It is essential that the PFT usefulness for our population. Unfortunately, both of these
use the exact skinfold sites along with the appropriate re- protocols were found to provide values that were some-
gression chart specified in Appendix A. what variable and inconsistent with other proven meas-
ures of cardiovascular fitness. Deviation from known
Aerobic Capacity standards is unacceptable for two reasons: overestimation
Evaluating the aerobic capacity of participants will be con- would fail to identify uniformed personnel who lack ade-
ducted using a Treadmill and Stepmill. quate aerobic fitness to meet the demands of their job.
Conversely, underestimating aerobic capacity might frus-
It has been well established that the leading occupational- trate aerobically fit uniformed personnel, which could
related diseases causing premature departures from the fire cause them unnecessary concern. Individuals may even
service are heart disease and lung disease. Heart disease consider making adjustments to their exercise programs,
causes 45 percent of the line-of-duty deaths that occur based on inaccurate information.
among U.S. fire fighters. Emergency fire fighting duties have
been found to be associated with a risk of death from coro- In response to this problem the IAFF contracted with the
nary heart disease that was markedly higher than the risk as- University of Texas Graduate School of Health and Kine-
sociated with non-emergency duties. Fire suppression tasks siology. The net result was the development and validation
are associated with the highest risk which is approximately 10 of newly refined prediction equations for both tests, and a
to 100 times as high as that for non-emergency duties.1 new protocol for the StepMill assessment. These changes
will provide uniformed personnel with a more accurate es-
Aerobic fitness is fundamental to the health, safety and timate of cardiovascular fitness. To avoid confusing the
performance of all uniformed personnel. A program of new protocols with previous versions, these new assess-
regular aerobic exercise will reduce an individual’s risk of ments will be referred to as the WFI Treadmill test and
heart and lung disease. Furthermore, such exercise will WFI StepMill test.
help improve cardiovascular fitness and maintain normal
body composition, weight, blood pressure, blood lipids, • Submaximal versus Maximal
and blood sugar. It has been estimated that inactive per- Measurements of aerobic capacity may be performed at ei-
sons have a 90 percent increased risk of heart attack than ther submaximal or maximal levels. Submaximal aerobic
physically active persons.2 capacity tests, when properly validated, have been shown
to accurately estimate the individual’s volume of oxygen
Numerous studies have demonstrated the necessity of consumption. These tests are less expensive and easier to
maintaining a high level of aerobic capacity for the duties administer than maximal tests and can be performed in a
of uniformed personnel. Measurements of heart rate re- fitness center setting by a qualified exercise specialist. The
sponse taken during normal fire fighting tasks have been at submaximal aerobic assessments developed for the WFI are
or near maximal levels.3 In addition, the oxygen uptake based on the heart rate response during graded exercise. It
requirements associated with performing live fire rescue is important to note that all submaximal tests are based on
and suppression tasks fall within the range of 60-80 per- regression equations and are subject to various prediction
cent of maximum.4 The cardiovascular, respiratory, and errors including: variance in determining target heart rate,
thermoregulatory strain resulting from work at this high heart rate fluctuations due to dehydration, anxiety, and
level of intensity is profound.5 Therefore, optimal aerobic medications. The magnitude and frequency of these pre-
capacity is essential to the safety and performance of uni- diction errors are reduced by using a well-validated sub-
formed personnel. maximal test and appropriate medical prescreening.
For those departments electing to use maximal aerobic ca-
pacity tests, such testing must only be done by qualified
medical personnel under the supervision of a physician. Test- Grip Strength — Grip strength has been shown to be
ing must be conducted in a medical setting with ECG mon- a key factor in many essential emergency service tasks
itoring, resuscitation and defibrillation equipment on site. including lifting and carrying equipment, packaging
and moving patients, holding and operating hose
Muscular Strength lines, raising extension ladders, and removing victims.
Strength is defined as the maximal force that a specific
muscle or group of muscles can generate. The demands of Grip strength will be measured using a hand grip dy-
uniformed personnel require above-average strength. Job namometer, please refer to Appendix A for hand grip
task analyses have shown that the weight of equipment protocol.
used by a single fire fighter on the job is in excess of 100
pounds.6,7 Insufficient muscular strength may contribute Leg Strength and Power — Leg strength is required
to higher incidence of sprains, strains and back injuries for many essential emergency service tasks including
among uniformed personnel. Muscular strength will be lifting and carrying equipment, forcing entry, climb-
evaluated using the hand dynamometer, arm dynamome- ing and negotiating ladders and stairs, pulling and
ter, leg dynamometer and the vertical jump power test, operating hose lines, and lifting patients.
which is optional.
Leg strength will be assessed using a leg dynamometer;
• Evaluation of Muscular Strength please refer to Appendix A for the static leg strength
Strength measurements are specific to the joint and range protocol.
of motion that is being measured. Since uniformed per-
sonnel require general strength throughout the body for Leg power will be measured using the optional ver-
safe and efficient job performance, a representative sample tical jump timing mat; please refer to Appendix A for
from three commonly used muscle groups was selected for the leg power protocol.
purposes of this evaluation.
Arm Strength — Arm strength is imperative for the
The WFI Technical Committee fielded concern about the performance of many standard and essential fire and
static leg strength assessment and its potential for injury, emergency tasks including stabilizing, lifting, and
particularly for individuals with a history of lumbar prob- carrying tools and equipment, operating hand lines,
lems. Following an extensive review by the WFI Technical and victim transport.
Committee, it was determined that the test is safe for our
population, provided that comprehensive pre-screening, in- Arm strength will be measured using a dynamome-
struction, supervision and adherence to proper technique ter, please refer to Appendix A for the arm strength
are followed. In fact, the opportunity to educate participants protocol.
on proper lifting form during this assessment has con-
tributed to its value. The committee also recognizes that
Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle group to per-
some apprehension may still exist. Therefore, a vertical jump
form repeated contractions or to sustain a contraction over
test may be offered as an option. It should be noted that the
time. Job analyses have shown a strong correlation between
results of the vertical jump are not directly comparable to
muscular endurance and the essential job tasks of uni-
the results of the static leg strength assessment. The static
formed personnel.8,9 Insufficient muscular endurance may
assessment evaluates muscular strength. The vertical jump
precipitate many preventable injuries. Core muscle en-
evaluates leg power by estimating the rate of force produced
durance is necessary to stabilize the torso and provide
by the legs and hips in propelling the body vertically.
lower back support during exertion. Well-conditioned core
muscles will have the necessary endurance to stabilize the
• Methods to Safely Assess Strength
spine and support the lower back during sustained activ-
For safety and data collection purposes, strength meas-
ity. Weak core muscles may contribute to lower back pain
urements will be conducted using static handgrip, leg and
and injury. Muscular endurance will be evaluated using
arm dynamometer measures, or the optional vertical jump
static plank, push-ups or alternate grip push-up.
assessment. These tests have been determined to be safe,
valid, and reliable methods for evaluating muscular
• Evaluation of Muscular Endurance
strength and/or power. In order to measure maximal
The muscular endurance evaluation has been modified. The
strength or power, the individual must execute a maximal
push-up assessment, or alternate grip push-up, may be used
muscular contraction. To insure the highest degree of
to evaluate upper body muscular endurance. The alternate
safety, evaluators must provide appropriate pre-screening,
grip push-up was added for individuals with a history of
provide detailed instructions, and emphasize performance
hand, wrist or shoulder injuries. Either push-up protocol can
be used to evaluate muscular endurance of the chest or the
triceps, please refer to Appendix A for push-up protocol.
The modified curl-up protocol has been eliminated in levels of personnel over the course of their careers; effec-
favor of the static plank evaluation. This change was a re- tiveness of the medical and fitness program in improving
sult of extensive research by the WFI Technical Committee individual personnel’s physical fitness; muscular weak-
to ensure the safety of the individual and to improve the nesses and imbalances that may increase the risk of injury;
specificity of the evaluation. The Technical Committee possible causes of sprains and strains; possible risk factors
shared concerns that the fixed-foot curl-up produced un- for back injury; possible factors related to the high inci-
necessary sheering forces on the lumbar spine. To address dence of musculoskeletal injuries in the fire service.
this concern, the static plank will now be used to evaluate
muscular endurance of core muscles in the trunk region. The WFI is not a Standard — Norms vs Standards
This incorporates muscular stabilization which better sim- A norm is an informal guideline derived from the average
ulates the action of the core muscles in daily activity, and or median performance of a large group. A standard is a
it is a sound training technique. These factors make it a definite rule, principle, formal guideline, or measure es-
safer and more specific assessment. Please refer to Ap- tablished by an authority. Norms are often used in the fit-
pendix A for static plank protocol. ness setting as a frame of reference to assist with the
interpretation of personalized results, such as assisting in-
Flexibility dividuals in understanding how their results compare to a
Flexibility is the ability of a joint to move through a full population of similar age and gender. While fire depart-
range of motion. The effect of flexibility on performance ments may provide information regarding norms for their
is inconclusive, however it is widely accepted that a lack of members, under no circumstances does the IAFF/IAFC
flexibility in certain joints will likely increase the risk of in- Joint Labor Management WFI Task Force Committee en-
jury. Joint and limb restrictions may influence essential dy- dorse the use of norms to establish a standard that might
namic movements, balance, coordination, and muscular result in punitive action. All uniformed personnel should
work efficiency. When a joint lacks flexibility, that specific understand that the goal of this evaluation is solely to im-
joint is unable to achieve its full normal range of motion. prove personal fitness. By intent, this Initiative has set no
Surrounding joints must then overcompensate to perform standards for any of these areas. Every individual is ex-
essential tasks. This biomechanical compromise produces pected to attain or maintain physical fitness through a per-
a “microtrauma,” or an overuse injury over the long term. sonalized exercise program, as well as a healthy lifestyle.
The leading types of line-of-duty injury within the pro- EXERCISE PROGRAMS
fessional fire service are sprains and strains. In addition, The development of an exercise program based on the specific
the most prevalent injury leading to premature retirement needs of each individual is a major component of the Well-
from the fire service is back injury. Insufficient flexibility ness-Fitness Initiative. The exercise program should be a pro-
may contribute to the cause of these statistics. gressive plan that accounts for and meets the needs of an
individual’s current level of fitness, job duties, time restrictions,
Many uniformed personnel report some medical history physical capabilities, nutritional status, and self improvement
of lower back pain. In a survey conducted by the Miami efforts. Although the specifics to designing exercise programs
Dade County Fire Rescue Department, 55 percent of their are beyond the scope of this document, it is important to men-
members reported current lower back pain and 86 percent tion a few considerations.
of the members reported a past medical history of lower
back pain. Therefore, it is critical that assessment proce- Considerations for Designing Exercise Programs
dures do not exacerbate symptoms of existing back pain The benefits of personalized fitness programs cannot be
or cause further injury. overstated and the customer service aspect of exercise pro-
gramming is critical. The fitness assessment previously de-
Flexibility will be evaluated through a modified sit and scribed is only the first step in educating uniformed
reach assessment. personnel regarding their level of fitness and guiding them
through the process of establishing specific personal goals.
• Evaluation of Flexibility Assessments must be followed by a one-on-one consulta-
The modified sit and reach assessment evaluates general tion in which the individual can address concerns and
flexibility of the posterior muscles of the trunk and legs, learn about recommended exercises and equipment use.
as described in Appendix A.
Personalized exercise programs should consider the fol-
Data Collection lowing individual characteristics: age, weight, motivation
The data collected from the fitness assessments will iden- level, goals, current aerobic and anaerobic capacity, cur-
tify the following: body composition, aerobic capacity, flex- rent strength level, overall fitness level, exercise experience,
ibility, muscular strength, muscular power, and muscular physical work requirements, muscle imbalances, personal
endurance of all uniformed personnel; changes in fitness lifestyle, time constraints, equipment available, preferred
activities and mode of exercise, and sociological preference • Ca n c e r
(individual vs. group). Diet has been shown to be a pre-disposing factor in the de-
velopment of cancer. A diet high in animal fats, and obe-
In addition, the program should focus on encouraging pos- sity in general, have been linked to the development and
itive choices, including changes in nutrition, time manage- recurrence of colorectal, breast and prostate cancer. A diets
ment, and health priorities. The program should also be high in fruits, vegetables, and high fiber whole grains has
balanced to include each of the following fitness compo- been shown to have a protective effect against cancer.
nents: cardiovascular capacity, flexibility, muscular strength,
muscular power and endurance, and body composition A Balanced Diet
A nutritionally sound diet fuels the body for exercise,
In some cases, exercise programs centering on job task strenuous work, and resistance to disease. Paramount to
performance may be appropriate. the success of a departmental wellness program is the re-
inforcement of healthy dietary habits. By educating com-
Training is a form of stress. The body will adapt and respond as pany officers and making them a part of the wellness
long as the stress is not too great. All training programs should program, healthy eating should become an expectation
be progressive in nature. Caution should be used providing within the fire station.
time for the body to recover. Programs that proceed too quickly
will over-stress the body and may lead to injury. Job specific al- Most experts agree that a balanced and varied diet can
lowances must be made to allow for sleep deprivation, high meet all of the required daily nutritional needs. The exact
stress shifts, and intense workload that include working fires, quantity of protein, fats, and carbohydrates has long been
long incidents, heavy rescues, or high volume of calls. subject for debate. The widely accepted contribution to the
total daily caloric intake is as follows: carbohydrates should
NUTRITION be 55-65 percent; proteins consist of 12-20 percent; and
Few lifestyle factors have as strong of an influence on an in- fats should be 25-30 percent of the total daily intake.
dividual’s overall health and physical performance as his
or her habitual eating pattern. The working environment In addition, the following USDA guidelines will help lead to
of uniformed personnel presents unique challenges to the a healthy diet: eat five or more servings of fruits and vegeta-
maintenance of healthy eating habits. Proper nutrition en- bles; reduce the amount of cholesterol, salt, and fats, partic-
hances the performance and quality of life of uniformed ularly saturated fat; replace high fat meats with lean cuts;
personnel. reduce the amount of processed foods, which are high in salt
and hydrogenated oils; increase the amount of fiber; and
Nutrition for Performance drink plenty of non-caffeinated and alcohol-free beverages.
Nutrition plays a significant role in exercise performance
and recovery. Some benefits of a well balanced diet include: Planning for the availability of a variety of quality foods
optimal energy delivery, enhanced recovery, and strength- can reduce the potential for unhealthy eating behaviors.
ened immune function.
Obesity increases an individual’s risk for injury, reduces A nutritional counselor, dietitian, or sports nutritionist is
performance, and adversely affects the ability to dissipate a valuable asset to any wellness program. The field of nu-
heat while working. A well balanced diet, combined with a trition is plagued with fads and misinformation. Members,
consistent exercise program, is the most reliable method company officers, and Peer Fitness Trainers may wish to
to reduce body fat. consult a qualified nutritionist. Such experts can be hired,
contracted, or involved as volunteers. Benefits of a quali-
Nutrition for Health fied nutritional expert include: development of weight loss
The high levels of stress, physical demands, long term ex- management programs; analysis of individual dietary logs;
posures to chemicals and disease, and poor nutritional custom nutritional programs for specific conditions such
habits have contributed to elevated risks of heart disease as pregnancy, weight gain, or illness; education of Peer Fit-
and cancer within the fire service. ness Trainers, company officers, members, and recruits;
discouragement of potentially harmful dietary practices;
• He a r t d i s e a s e and development of specialized menus for post-incident
Several risk factors for heart disease including high cho- replenishment.
lesterol, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes can be reduced
by dietary intervention. A diet low in total fats, saturated Hydration
fats, cholesterol and salt, but high in fruits, vegetables, and Research has shown that working fire fighters can lose
fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. more than 2.6 liters of body fluid per hour. Sweat loss in
excess of 2 percent of body weight significantly impairs en-
durance capacity, elevates body temperature and decreases ENDNOTES
cardiac output. It is critical to address proper hydration New England Journal of Medicine Volume 356; Number
throughout the shift and during rehabilitation. 12; Page 1207; March 22, 2007
Powell KE, Thompson PD, Caspersen CJ, Kendrick JS:
During prolonged work, as the body loses water via per- Physical Activity and the Incidence of Coronary Artery
spiration and respiration, there is a tendency for a gradual Disease. Ann Rev Pub Health 1987; 8:253-287.
decrease in stroke volume and the body’s cooling capacity. Gledhill N and Jamnik VK: Characterization of the
This produces an elevated heart rate response and the ac- Physical Demands of Fire Fighting. Can J Spt Sci 1992;
cumulation of body heat. These effects amplify the sense of 17:3, 207-213.
exertion and accelerate the rate of fatigue. Dehydration and Lemon PWR and Hermiston RT: The energy cost of fire
hyperthermia further predispose an individual to arrhyth- fighting. J Occup Med, 19:337-340, 1977.
mias, myocardial infarction, loss of consciousness, stroke, Goldstein A, Malley KS, Aldrich TK, Kelly KJ, Weiden
and sudden death. Adequate hydration helps prevent these M, Coplan N, and Prezant DJ: Exercise performance of
ill effects, making it easier to sustain physical performance New York City Firefighters wearing various protective
and enhance recovery. Uniformed personnel can improve uniform ensembles. Commissioner’s Report, 1996.
their efficiency and capacity for evaporative cooling (sweat- Hyland M, Peltin S: Phoenix Fire Dept. Job Analysis, on
ing) through the following means: maintaining a high level file with IAFF.
of fitness; acclimatizing the body to working in a hot envi- Gledhill N and Jamnik VK: Characterization of the
ronment, decreasing body fat; and attaining and maintain- Physical Demands of Fire Fighting. Can J Spt Sci 1992;
ing the highest level of hydration possible. 17:3, 207-213.
Hyland M, Peltin S: Phoenix Fire Dept. Job Analysis, on
SUMMARY file with IAFF.
In summary, this document has provided a model for Gledhill N and Jamnik VK: Characterization of the
proper implementation of fitness programs in the fire serv- Physical Demands of Fire Fighting. Can J Spt Sci 1992;
ice. A preponderance of research has shown the critical 17:3, 207-213.
need for high levels of aerobic fitness, muscular endurance,
muscular strength, power, flexibility, and body composi-
tion to perform safely and effectively on the fire ground.
Adequate physical fitness is essential in maintaining the
wellness of our uniformed personnel. Fitness must be in-
corporated into the overall fire service philosophy.
While assessing uniformed personnel’s current fitness level
is an important part of developing an individualized fit-
ness program, assessment is not, in itself, a fitness pro-
gram. An effective physical fitness program has several
components that must be implemented. The component
elements necessary for a successful and comprehensive
physical fitness program have been highlighted through-
out this chapter. Appropriate protocols are referenced in