Editor's Note: The National Volunteer Fire Council's National Firefighter Health Week runs August 16-20. It's an annual week-long initiative held each August to educate the fire and emergency services community and the public about a variety of health and wellness issues that affect first responders. Friday's topic of focus is nutrition and physical fitness. In addition to the NVFC's tip below, be sure to check out 3 simple truths about nutrition for firefighters as well as the NVFC's special Health Week page.
Practicing good fitness and nutrition are key factors in achieving a healthy heart, body, and mind. These two components of a healthy lifestyle go hand-in-hand, lessening your risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as helping you to maintain your strength and energy so you can perform your duties as a first responder. Good fitness and eating habits will also help keep you mentally prepared for the challenges you face as a first responder.
During National Firefighter Health Week, start building strong lifestyle habits that include healthy eating and fitness. Keep the momentum going all year long so that you remain strong for your own sake as well as for you family, department, and community. Make the commitment to take care of yourself and practice healthy behaviors for life.
What You Can Do Today
Show your department that healthy cooking can be easy and delicious by preparing a heart-healthy lunch or dinner for department personnel.
Participate in a local health-related fundraising walk. This will not only raise funds for research to prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or other illnesses, but also get you moving while giving you the satisfaction of supporting a great cause.
Get a registered dietician, a nutrition student from a local college, or a local chef to donate time to help make your station heart-healthy. Ask them to host a session with department members on which foods in the station’s kitchen are not nutritious and what a tasty, healthier substitute might be.
Incorporate walking into your daily routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the far end of the parking lot, go for a walk during lunch, and/or take an after-dinner walk around the neighborhood.
Buy or borrow a book on calorie counts, or use the internet to research the nutrition content of your favorite chain restaurants' menus. Learn which items you can still enjoy while not ruining your diet.
Organize a department sporting event, tournament, or even a lunchtime game.
Conduct a demonstration for your department on portion size control. You can bring in common items (bagels, fast food items, sodas) and show the difference between how much someone normally eats and what the actual serving size is.
Ask a local gym or fitness center to donate week-long passes to your department members during National Firefighter Health Week. Perhaps the gym would be willing to offer department members a discounted rate year-round or donate equipment they no longer need to the station.
Log in to a meal-tracking site, such as the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Menu Planner or SparkPeople.com. These sites allow you to enter what you eat and see what your total calories and fat are for the day.
Try to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. You can exchange high-calorie snacks for fresh fruit or vegetables with a low-fat dip. Mix in fruit with your cereal, oatmeal or yogurt in the morning and add extra veggies to sandwiches, pizza, and as your side item at a restaurant.
Visit the NVFC's Health Week page on good fitness and nutrition for a list of full resources and links to assist you and your department
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