Firefighter obesity at ‘alarming levels,’ fire council says

Greenbelt, MD – The percentage of obese or overweight firefighters has risen to “alarming levels,” and has surpassed the percentage of the general public that is obese or overweight, according to a report (.pdf file) released by the National Volunteer Fire Council.

Ranging from 73 to 88 percent of the fire service population, overweight or obese firefighters are more likely than their normal-weight colleagues to suffer from hypertension, cardiovascular disease and reduced muscular strength, the report stated. About two-thirds of Americans are obese or overweight, according to the report, which was prepared through a partnership between NVFC, the HOPE Health Research Institute and the U.S. Fire Administration.

Weight gain among firefighters could be attributed to occupational factors such as shift work, sleep disruption, unhealthy eating and a lack of firefighter fitness standards, the report suggested.

The report recommended improved nutrition and effective fitness programs and annual fitness assessments to help combat obesity.

According to USFA, stress or overexertion is the No. 1 cause of firefighter deaths, accounting for 55.6 percent of fatalities in 2009; most of those deaths were the result of heart attacks.

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