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Int J Exerc Sci. 2019 May 1;12(2):764-776. eCollection 2019.

Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors and Physical Fitness in Volunteer Firefighters.

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Department of Kinesiology, The University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX, USA.
Department of Kinesiology, Saginaw Valley State University, University Center, MI, USA.
College of Medicine, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI, USA.


Forty-seven percent of volunteer firefighter line of duty deaths are caused by cardiovascular events. Aggressive cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor reduction and improved physical fitness could reduce CVD mortality within this population. We assessed CVD risk factors and physical fitness in a large cohort of volunteer firefighters to help establish a health and fitness profile of this population, which may serve as evidence for the need to initiate programs aimed at reducing morbidity and mortality caused by CVD in the volunteer fire service. Seventy-four male volunteer firefighters were assessed for eight CVD risk factors and anthropometric characteristics. Physical fitness was assessed via push-ups, sit-ups, and the YMCA step test. Sixty-eight percent of the firefighters had two or more CVD risk factors. The sample was considered obese via body fat percentage (25.3 ± 5.7%), 27% were hypertensive, 30% had hypercholesterolemia, and 46% were sedentary. The average number of sit-ups performed was 27.3 ± 10.5, which was ranked in the 25th percentile. The average heart rate after the YMCA step test was 160.2 ± 14.6 bpm, which was ranked very poor. The number of CVD risk factors and poor physical fitness in this cohort of volunteer firefighters was noteworthy. Most volunteer firefighters in our sample were at elevated risk for CVD and had inadequate physical fitness. This evidence conveys the need to initiate physical activity and nutrition outreach programs, led by health and fitness professionals, aimed at reducing firefighter morbidity and mortality within the volunteer fire service.


Heart disease; aerobic capacity; atherosclerosis; firefighting; metabolic syndrome; obesity; sedentary


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