5 Ways to Improve Firefighter Fitness

August 22, 2008

As we all know, heart disease and heart attacks are the number one killer of firefighters in the United States today. If you have certain other risks factors, it is critical that you take measures to improve and maintain good cardio health. Firefighting is a stressful job, that’s nothing new. However there are a few steps that you can take to help prevent heart attacks and heart disease.

Keep reading to discover what you can do to naturally improve your heart function for a long and healthy life.

Lose weight

This should be at the top of your list to get into good physical health overall, but it is especially important to your cardio health. Overweight people are at a higher risk for developing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even certain types of cancer. Obesity will also cause your heart to pump harder which can lead to long term damage.

Due to the extreme temperatures that we are exposed to as firefighters, the more weight you are carrying, the more your heart and body have to work. The heavier you are, the more your body has to work to cool down also. This puts you at a higher risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Imagine carrying the weight of two SCBA’s or more all the time…

Stop smoking

I know, you smokers are saying “But I tried and I can’t” or “I don’t want to”. It’s your life, do what you want. As a former smoker of over 20 years, I can honestly say that I don’t miss it like I thought I would. I feel better and am performing better on the job.

This habit can put you at a much higher risk for heart attack and stroke. Smoking is one of the most preventable causes of heart disease there is. So if you smoke, stop. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you live with a smoker, insist that they not smoke around you. Second hand smoke can do just as much, if not more, damage to your lungs.

The latest cancer reports can verify the toxic atmospheres that we work in are dangerous and are killing firefighters at an increasing rate. Why would you breath smoke anymore?


Your heart is a muscle. The best way to develop any muscle is through exercise. This includes your heart muscle. Exercise gets your blood pumping and makes your heart stronger. It also reduces cholesterol levels and helps to reduce stress.

You don’t have to prepare to go and compete in the Firefighter Combat Challenge or anything like that. Even 2 or 3 days of moderate exercise a week can make a difference in your life.

Eat heart healthy foods

Foods that are rich in potassium are good for your heart. You should also try to avoid foods that are high in sodium because sodium will make you retain excess water and put a strain on your heart muscle. Studies have shown that foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids are good for your heart. Stop eating the high calorie, high fat junk foods and start eating a diet rich in fiber, fruit and vegetables.

It’s hard to eat healthy all the time. Depending on how busy your department is and what your schedule is like, it can be next to impossible. Find the healthiest alternative at the restaurant you are eating at. You will want to pay special attention to the fat content and sodium.

Lower your stress levels

Yeah right! But the Chief…!!!

This can be easier said than done. We all lead busy, stressful lives. If you feel that you are under too much stress, investigate ways to decrease these stress levels. There may be some things you cannot change, but some things you can. If you are trying to be perfect in everything you do, stop.

Nobody is perfect and trying to achieve perfection will cause unneeded stress in your life. Find something that you can do that will de-stress you. Some people like to exercise while others engage in their favorite hobby. Whatever you, do try to lower your stress level to protect your heart from the damage that ongoing stress can cause.

The topics are 5 of the most common ways you can improve your cardiac health and improve your life. Going quickly are the days where firefighters don’t need to be fit. With all of the studies about firefighter deaths and fitness resources that are available to us today, there is no excuse to not be exercising or getting into some type of shape other than round!

Tags: , , ,

2 Responses to 5 Ways to Improve Firefighter Fitness

  1. robert
    April 21, 2012 at 3:05 am

    I just wanted to say for all the frefighters who hate to run , i use to be the same way. We all know that as firefighters we rely on our cardio and strength , and it seems that cardio is the one aspect that i see we are weak in. One day i ran 3 miles and about died after i felt like ___ , but everytime i ran after i felt better and now it doesnt phase me . I dont worry about time but i feel myself getting better and if you run at least a mile and half three times a week you will lose your gut !

  2. admin
    April 30, 2012 at 2:06 am

    Robert, great advice and tips! It takes just getting started in the right direction to move forward!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *