Last week I wrote about the best way for firefighters to work out. In response I was asked to explain why, specifically, firefighters need to be proficient in all components of fitness (as I had stated). While fitness enthusiasts may balk at this question, firefighters who aren’t as excited to work out may benefit from this understanding (since they may be more motivated to exercise if they know it’ll improve their job performance.)
There are many scientific studies on this topic. In terms of overall fitness, several articles have illustrated that performance on the Candidate Physical Abilities Test and other firefighter physical agility tests is associated with scores on tests of muscular endurance (push-ups and other endurance tests), muscular strength (bench press and grip strength), aerobic capacity (VO2max test), and anaerobic performance (400-meter shuttle run). Although skill clearly plays a role in performance of job tasks, in these studies those who scored higher on the fitness tests took significantly less time to complete the firefighting tasks.
Many of you reading this have already passed the CPAT, or don’t have a need to pass it now, so here’s more to chew on in case that doesn’t do much for you. Heart attacks are more likely to occur during or after a physically strenuous call, therefore an unfit person is more likely to be overexerted during these events and suffer a cardiac event. Most on-duty heart attacks occur at fires. Since fire suppression requires moderate to high exertion over a long period of time, muscular and aerobic endurance are the most important components of fitness to possess in order to protect yourself against heart attack.
While overexertion of the cardiovascular system describes a heart attack, overexertion of the muscular system is to blame for the most common, most debilitating and most costly type of injury experienced by firefighters: back injuries. Most often, these occur during lifting tasks including lifting patients, hose and other gear. A great deal of muscular strength, meaning the maximum amount of force you can exert in one effort, is the most protective factor for avoiding back injuries.
There’s much more but I’ll keep it simple for today! In the comments below, let me know if you’ve noticed when your good/bad/improved fitness affects your job performance. And as always, send me your questions.
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