|Abstract:||As a population, firefighters are at high risk for many health-related issues (e.g., sudden cardiac events, obesity, hypertension, fatigue, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety). Physical activity (i.e., exercise) is one the most effective strategies firefighters can use to prevent or attenuate multiple health risks as well as improve their health and physical fitness as well as job performance. Given the increased risk of many diseases and diminished health, firefighters’ fitness levels are crucial for preventing these potentially morbid diseases or at least decreasing their risk.
The purpose of this project was to examine the relationships between: (1) physical fitness (cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, power, flexibility) and performance on the Illinois Fire Service Institute Academy Firefighter Challenge (AFC); (2) individual differences (exercise intensity preference and tolerance, extraversion) and physical fitness; and (3) individual differences and performance on the AFC. In addition to exploring these relationships, this study examined the effects of a 7-week functional fitness training program by assessing multiple components of fitness at baseline (Week 1), mid-Academy (Week 4), and post (Week 7). This project attempted to establish the role fitness plays on firefighting capabilities and the impact individual differences had on fitness and firefighting capabilities.
Participants were new/novice career firefighters [recruits enrolled in the Basic Firefighter (FF) Academy at the Illinois Fire Service Institute]. Measures of fitness (1.5-mile run time, number of repetitions on 60 s sit-ups and push-ups, vertical jump height, sit and reach) and simulated firefighting drills (Keiser Sled, SCBA maze, victim drag, hose charge, equipment carry, and ladder set-up) were assessed at Week 1 and Week 7 of the Academy. Descriptive measures (age, height, weight, BMI) were also recorded. In addition to these measures, individual trait differences were assessed via questionnaires. Over the course the 7-week Academy, the participants took part in a functional fitness program, designed to improve not only fitness but also their skills as firefighters.
Firefighting is a challenging occupation that requires the men and women who choose to this profession to be in peak physical condition. However, this is not always the case and it is more common that there are unfit and unhealthy firefighters working as first responders. Targeting firefighters early in their careers and highlighting the importance of fitness is extremely vital to developing healthy, safe, and efficient firefighters.