Exercise is the best weapon first responders have against cancer, heart disease, stress, obesity, PTSD, mental health and injury. Read the list and then get moving...
This is a continuation of my previous post. Here are reasons 11- 21 on why first responders need to exercise. I hope this list motivates you to start or continue a functional workout program! If so, read to the end for a link to a FREE workout program. Please forward this list to your crew and department and reach out with any feedback or questions.
The goal of Fire Rescue Fitness is to help educate and motivate 100,000 first responders to improve their health and fitness. One of the best ways to do this is to educate on the importance that exercise plays in your health. So, I compiled a list of the top 21 reasons why firefighters, EMTs, and medics (and any other first responder) should (and needs to) work out regularly.
Here are the reasons 11-21!
#11. Boosts your energy. Exercise helps your body function more efficiently and leads to more oxygen to fuel your body’s cells. You also feel fewer aches and pains and have greater strength. As a result, you can go about your daily activities feeling less fatigued, stressed, and weary. Although working out early in the morning or late in the afternoon may feel like the last thing you have the energy to do, once you build exercise into your daily routines, these workout bouts will actually seem less tiresome because you’ll feel more mentally and physically capable of carrying them out. Research shows that even low-to-moderate intensity exercise for just 20 minutes a day, three days a week for six weeks can significantly improve energy and metabolic levels.
#12. Improves sleep. Although sleep experts recommend that you not exercise right before you go to bed, exercise during the day benefits your sleep at night. Granted as first responders sometimes the lack of sleep cannot be controlled. Research does show that the physical exertion you engage in during the day helps your body’s circadian rhythm keep in tune. There is also some correlation to exercise and quality of sleep. Those that exercise regularly experience a deeper and more restful sleep faster. Personally, I see this during my shifts. When I do not work out I do not sleep well and struggle to even fall asleep.
#13. Improves sex life. Keeping your muscles active through exercise helps promote the demands placed on your endocrine glands to produce more hormones. With more muscle mass comes greater stimulation to produce androgens which help both men and women maintain their sexual functioning. And, the more fit you are, the higher your interest in and ability to carry out sexual activity. Your emotional resilience will also be greater if you exercise, which also benefits your relationships.
#14. Boosts memory. Remember to stay consistent with your exercise. There are now volumes of studies on humans as well as lab animals showing that regular physical exercise helps your neurons stay in shape particularly in the memory areas of your brain. Even just slow to moderate walking has shown to help your brain’s memory center maintain its health and vitality. Memory also benefits from a general lowering of cortisol, the stress hormone, associated with the improved mood you experience from your regular workouts.
#15. Builds intelligence. Along with memory, your intellectual skills benefit from regular physical activity. When you exercise, oxygen flows more freely to your brain, which can stimulate the production of new brain cells and neurons, lowering your risk of cogitative impairment now and in later life.
#16. Lowers anxiety. Exercise can improve your mood which then can transfer to improving how you deal with anxiety. As your levels of endorphins increase, your feelings of worry also start to diminish. When you exercise, you also refocus your attention from your daily problems to the workout itself. You can gain a fresh perspective on even the most preoccupying concerns in your life by taking an exercise break. When you return to these daily problems, you approach them with renewed energy. And exercise can also help manage anxiety and depression. There's a host of research proving that people with anxiety and depression can find major help in working out.
#17. Builds strength and muscle. More muscle is good for many reasons, it burns five times more calories each day than fatty tissue. When you exercise by adding resistance training, your body composition will change to contain more muscle, thus resulting in extra calories burned while you sleep. Keeping your muscles strong also helps you stay more “fit for duty” and helps you perform better on and off the fire/rescue scene.
#18. Improves self-confidence on and off the fire/rescue scene. When we exercise we improve our mood, gain strength and feel better. This can then transfer to a sense of accomplishment and improved self-confidence. Setting and achieving fitness goals transfers to other areas of your lift. The goal-setting/goal-accomplishing cycle is a learned trait. If you set your mind to something and work toward its accomplishment, the outcome will be positive.
#19. You’ll Get More Done. Working out takes time, but it may save you even more time in the long run. Studies have confirmed that training your brain to focus on a task, like a workout, transfers to keeping you focused and productive in whatever it is you do outside of the gym. In fact, one International Journal of Workplace Health Management study found that people are 23 percent more productive on days they exercise (click here for the proof).
#20. To feel young. Consistent exercise helps your skin and posture thus making you look younger. And, exercise is shown to help your cells age slower. Research has shown that exercise appears to slow the shriveling of the protective tips on bundles of genes inside cells (called telomeres), which means a slowing of the aging process. People who did 100 minutes of weekly exercise had telomeres that looked like those from someone about 5-6 years younger than those who did zero to16 minutes of exercise each week. The bottom line is that exercise helps manage stress, hormones, muscle mass, and cell function, all of which improve quality of life and appearance.
#21. It reduces the chances of cancer! I saved the best for last. Over the next few years, we will see that cancer will kill more first responders than heart disease, strokes, or fires. First responders have higher rates of many cancer types, including bladder, brain, colon, leukemia, lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, lung, kidney, melanoma, multiple myeloma, prostate, and testis. The longer you’re on the job, the greater your risk. With no foolproof cure, prevention is the best mode of attack against the disease. The most recent report from the American Cancer Society reminds us that we all have the best prevention tactic at our disposal: EXERCISE!
Consistent and functional exercise helps you stay at a healthy weight, which helps regulate hormones and helps the immune system. In fact, being overweight or obese is a factor in an estimated 14% to 20% of cancer deaths in the US. So if you are an overweight first responder, your cancer risk is exponentially high! The good news is that the research suggests losing even a small amount of weight has health benefits and is a good place to start. Click here for a great article on reducing Cancer as a First Responder.
Are you feeling motivated? I hope that as you read through the list you not only got the urge to put on your sneakers and hit the gym but also now have an understanding of the importance of regular exercise. As a first responder, exercise is not a suggestion, it is essential.
If you are looking to get started training ‘functionally” like a firefighter, EMT, and/or medic, I have you covered. FRF is offering a FREE 28-day program for all first responders. This program includes everything you need to lose weight, improve performance, gain strength/muscle and reduce injuries. I even include access to the FRF/TrainHeroic app, eating guides, and coaching from me. It is time to GET Fire Rescue Fit!
Please share with your crew and department and please comment if you agree (or don't).
Stay safe, stay positive, and GET FRF.
-Zam (Aaron Zamzow)