Firefighters have very physically demanding, psychologically taxing, stressful, and dangerous occupations, resulting in frequent cardiovascular events, Musculoskeletal injuries, and behavioral health concerns.These issues compromise health, fitness, and well-being throughout their career and into retirement, severely impacting the ability to protect our communities.

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of: the current state of wellness and fitness programs in the fire service, our firefighter wellness and fitness projects in the Tampa Bay region, barriers to implementation of these programs; and recommendations for successful implementation of firefighter wellness and fitness programs.

Many stakeholders agree that firefights need to be physically fit and psychologically healthy in order to have long and successful careers. Thus much emphasis has been placed on strategies to improve and maintain wellness and fitness, including fire service guidelines, such as the IAFF-IAFC Wellness Fitness Initiative. Low back pain and injuries are some of the most common and disabling disorders in firefighters.

Properly designed and implemented wellness and fitness programs will help transform fitness across the State of Florida and, ultimately, the United States. Based on our recommendations and the guidance of well-versed stakeholders, this is a real possibility. Regional implantation will serve as a model-enabling other fire departments to replicate and standardize and approach addressing all current and future needs for firefighters who serve and protect and protect our communities.

Through successful implementation at the regional and national levels, such programs will result in improvement health and wellness outcomes that will be delivered in a cost-effective and pragmatic manner, Stay tuned for our future updates from our Florida-based firefighters Wellness and Fitness initiatives.

Originally published in Florida Fire Service Magazine, October 2016, Copyright Florida Fire Chief’s Association