The Wellness-Fitness Initiative Is Working Hard To Keep Firefighters Fit
The average retired firefighter has a life expectancy of 58 years. The biggest contributing factor to this shocking statistic is heart disease, says Tampa Fire Rescue’s District Fire Chief Toby Hart.
As an ACE Certified Peer Fitness Trainer, Chief Hart is one of 10 personal trainers at Tampa Fire Rescue who help supervise the firefighter’s health and exercise regimens through a certification established by the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
ACE and the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) developed the Wellness-Fitness Initiative to test the fitness knowledge of the firefighters and assist the department during their physical training regimen.
Chief Hart says the first step is to examine the current health and fitness level of the firefighter and establish reasonable health goals. He will then create an exercise routine, as recommended by the Wellness-Fitness Task Force, and assist the firefighter during his/her training.
“My goal is to help encourage these guys to stay in shape,” Chief Hart says. “Our department has grown to recognize the hazards associated with being a firefighter and reduce the occupational diseases that are associated with this job.”
As “occupational athletes,” Chief Hart says it’s all about finding a way to reduce injuries to save the department costs on healthcare and more importantly, save lives.
Back to Basics
The No. 1 cause of injury and retirement among firefighters today comes from back problems. In 2011, the University of South Florida Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences Department and Tampa Fire Rescue joined forces to examine the back injuries associated with being a firefighter. About 100 active-duty firefighters across 21 Tampa Fire Rescue stations engaged in a back-specific workout regimen designed to prevent lower back injuries in firefighters.
Through low-intensity floor exercises and exercises on a variable-angle roman chair, the regimen is designed to build the muscles that support the spine and decrease potential lower back injuries. Chief Hart said the test reinforces his mantra that muscle endurance, not just muscle strength, are the key to the health of his firefighters.
Did you know?
The public donated most of the equipment at Tampa Fire Rescue’s headquarters
Did you know?
Firefighters are encouraged to stay in shape year round through the Wellness-Fitness Initiative’s bi-yearly physical examination, which gives those who pass the test some extra vacation time.