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Video: Why fitness is the fire service ‘wonder drug’

5 reasons every firefighter, paramedic and EMT needs to exercise

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Heart attacks, strokes, cancer, suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, high blood pressure and obesity are the top health issues facing the fire service today. Many departments are taking measures to combat these health issues (decon wipes, peer support programs, peer fitness programs) and create a healthier culture in the fire service. But more resources and emphasis needs to be placed on the one thing that can have a major impact on each one of these health issues.

Watch this video to learn five reasons every firefighter, EMT and paramedic needs to exercise.

Here’s a quick review:

1. Improve fireground performance: A consistent and effective exercise program can improve your performance and reduce instance of injury, thereby prolonging your career. When you exercise properly, you can improve mobility, increase strength and maintain a healthy weight.

2. Improve overall health: Exercise can combat obesity and diabetes, help manage heart disease and keep blood pressure in check.

3. Manage stress: Firefighters have stressful jobs, so managing stress and anxiety are essential. Regular exercise can help you relax and reduce symptoms associated with mild depression, anxiety and PTSD.

4. Boost immunity: Exercise can improve your immune response, lower illness risk, and reduce inflammation. This is especially important due to the high risk of COVID-19.

5. Enhance resiliency: Exercise and fitness can make you a more resilient first responder, better able to withstand, recover and grow in the face of stressors and changing demands. Resilience allows individuals to adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.

How much?

As few as three periods of 30 minutes of exercise per week has been shown to help improve overall health. As first responders, I feel we need a little more. Aim for four to five exercises sessions of 30 to 40 minutes per week that focus on improving mobility, strength and cardiovascular fitness.

Focus on fitness

There is no other program, product or operating guideline that can do what exercise can do for the firefighter. We as a fire service have done a good job at defining the health issues that affect us, but now we need to commit resources and funding to educate and combat them. Now is the time to educate and promote the “wonder drug” of the fire service.

I hope this information will help motivate you to get moving and stay fit. Please reach out to me if you have any health and fitness questions. I would love to help you and your department get more FRF (fire rescue fit).

Contact me at #GETFRF

Aaron Zamzow is a fire lieutenant for the Madison (Wisconsin) Fire Department with 20 years of experience as a fitness trainer and host of the Better Every Shift podcast. He holds a bachelor’s degree in health and wellness as well as a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification. He is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist, an NASM certified personal trainer and an ACE-certified peer fitness trainer. Zamzow is the founder and owner of and develops programs aimed at getting fire rescue athletes fit for duty. He authored the book “Ladder 2 Workout: A Comprehensive Firefighter Workout Program that will get you ‘Fit for Duty’ in 28 days.” Connect with Zamzow on Twitter or Facebook or via email.