Study Finds High Rate of Obesity Among Firefighters

Source: Sanchai Rattakunchorn - 123RF

Firefighters and emergency medical services represent more than two million individuals nationally.

A recent study, The Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Substandard Fitness in a Population-Based Firefighter Cohort found a high prevalence of overweight and obesity in career and volunteer firefighters, exceeding that of the US general population.

Eleven career and 13 volunteer departments were enrolled and contributed data to this study. A core team of investigators traveled to each fire department for 2 to 5 days, depending on the type of department (career vs volunteer) and shift structure of career departments, thus maximizing the potential to recruit study participants from all available firefighters

Other occupational groups, such as the military, have received considerable attention from the public health research community on issues related to health and fitness. Conversely, the substantial health and fitness issues faced by the fire service have, in large part, not been adequately addressed.

The report states there is a wide agreement that firefighters should maintain high levels of physical fitness, including aerobic capacity, flexibility, muscular endurance, strength, and power.

There is no agreed-upon standard for firefighter fitness; however, it has been suggested that firefighting activities require up to 12.0 metabolic equivalents (METs) of aerobic capacity and that this could be considered the minimum level of fitness necessary to safely perform required activities.

The epidemic of overweight and obesity among firefighters is critical, because, in addition to greater risk for morbidity and mortality, excess body fat is correlated with low fitness.