In a recent study by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 70% of domestic firefighters were found to be overweight or obese, a rate somewhat higher than the general population.
One would expect that by the nature of the job, those men and women charged with saving our lives from a house or commercial fire would need to be in optimal shape. Firefighters are required to not only be able to swing a 20 pound ax, and carry a 50 pound oxygen, but also tango with uncontrollable fire hoses swollen from pounds of water pressure, and the possibility of carrying limp bodies victimized by smoke.
"It's tough. Firefighters are humans too. And just like the American public is having a hard time battling obesity and being overweight, firefighters are having the same troubles," said Dr. Sue Day, author of the CDC report and an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas School of Public Health.
Dr. Day told KTVZ that those extra pounds are beginning to take a toll.
The study showed that cardiovascular events account for nearly half of the deaths of on-duty firefighters, and obesity has been linked to an increased risk of job-related disabilities, according to the CDC.
"Firefighters have extremely tough and stressful jobs," Day said. "But these are our first responders. They need to be cared for, and they need to be fit.
Dr. Day is a supporter, for the sake of firefighters, for a more collaborative guideline to help people change their behavior when it comes to weight management.
Although there are no nationally enforced standards on physical health and wellness for U.S. firefighters, prospective firefighters are forced to demonstrate that they can handle the job's physical toll, but those initial tests are the only nationalized benchmark, and quickly fade shortly after the job is accepted.
"Once a firefighter is accepted, fire departments have been historically lax in maintaining a fitness regimen, something the national council is looking to change," said Kimberly Quiros, director of communications for the National Volunteer Fire Council to CNN.
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