Trending Topics

4 ways to promote a physical fitness culture at your agency

It is our responsibility to supply our bodies with the exercise and care they need to serve us efficiently

Sponsored by
Fitness, shoes and tie with a sports man in the gym getting ready for a cardio or endurance workout. Exercise, running and preparation with laces of a male athlete or runner at the start of training

Jacob Wackerhausen/Getty Images

I’ve recently realized that the rumors are true. It does get harder as you get older and acquire more responsibilities. By “it,” I mean making your physical and mental health a priority. In public safety, we often go non-stop for hours on end, leaving self-care as an afterthought.

If we can integrate a healthy lifestyle into our workplace, that positive impact may turn into positive habits that trickle into our personal lives. Here are some ways we can promote physical fitness in the workplace.

1. Invest in fitness equipment

One thing that I’ve found very helpful everywhere I’ve worked is having fitness equipment there and ready to use. A stationary treadmill, dumbbells, heavy bags or even a basketball hoop serve as a constant promoter for movement, even if that only means throwing a few basketballs while walking by – at least it’s something.

I would suggest starting with equipment that is job specific which may fall within the agency budget. Many local and federal governments will offer grants that can be used on fitness equipment. Some large fitness manufacturers will also provide agencies with considerable discounts. Affordable fitness equipment can also be found on places like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Fellow coworkers may even have old equipment collecting dust at home, which can be brought for everyone to use. These options are all worth looking into, but the point is, just having the equipment in the station is a game changer.

Even with minimal equipment, you can set up a circuit with multiple stations with things such as jump rope, step ups, planks, kettlebell exercises, and other low set-up activity. Simple tools, like workout dice, which you throw to select a particular exercise (e.g., 10 burpees) are helpful to squeeze a few reps between calls.

2. Incorporate fitness into job-related training

Our jobs are highly physical. So why not throw in a physical/exercise component prior to job-related training to test ourselves? The reality is, we are often walking into high-stress calls already gassed, either from carrying equipment up many stairs or just being in a situation that requires a lot of physical effort. Challenging ourselves to do the things we should know how to do while sweaty, with a racing heart and out of breath, can prove to make us even better at those things in any type of environment. For those of us in the fire service, any form of physical activity performed on air (wearing an SCBA) becomes both a work-training and fitness exercise.

3. Schedule team-building activities

Getting people together for games or competitive events is a great way to get people moving. This can be as simple as a pick-up game of basketball in the garage, or as large as a multi-agency competitive sports game. These events are also a great way to raise money or sponsor a charitable cause. Large organization frequently host events like this – all you need to do is get a team together and sign up. The most important point here is to have fun with it.

That being said, it does not have to be a complex arrangement. Commemorative workouts, such as the “Murph” can be done with minimal equipment and coordination. They are a great way to bring people together to remember a fallen hero.

4. Designate a time for fitness, if possible

I was hesitant to bring this point up, as many departments are simply too busy to allocate time for anything other than calls, meals and bathroom breaks, but it’s worth consideration. If there does happen to be down time, regularly using that time to squeeze in some type of physical activity can have a really positive impact on the day. Better yet, getting this done early in the shift can really set the tone positively for the rest of the shift.

Ultimately, it is our responsibility to supply our bodies with the exercise and care they need to serve us efficiently.

None of these things are new or groundbreaking discoveries, they often just require somebody to take the initiative, set an example and lead the pack. This is especially true in an environment where being sedentary is the norm and fitness is not a priority. It only takes one brave soul to break the trend, and I challenge all readers to take that step.

Ahmad Taha is a Nationally Registered Paramedic and Certified Athletic Trainer. He started his career at Boston EMS in 2016, transitioning to the Sharon Fire Department in 2021. At both agencies, Ahmad has been heavily involved in creating and maintaining a Health and Wellness program that is second to none and inclusive to all. His experience in training bodybuilding and weight loss clients has translated smoothly to first responders, helping them implement proper body mechanics and strategies for injury prevention and longevity in their careers.