Kayden Lowe1, Petra Kis1, Greg A. Ryan2, Bridget F. Melton1. 1Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA. 2Piedmont University, Demorest, GA.

BACKGROUND: The National Fire Protection Organization (NFPA) recommends that fire departments (FD) complete health and fitness assessments for all firefighters (FF) to promote physical fitness and monitor wellness variables. A growing number of FDs are allocating resources to build facilities and hire exercise professionals to further help promote wellness. However, small and rural FDs are challenged to provide similar access to their FFs. This pilot study aimed to determine the effectiveness of fitness education to promote FF wellness following annual health and fitness assessment screenings. METHODS: A quasi-experimental design was employed with a convenience sample of 8 rural FFs from a single department. Skilled exercise professionals conducted a health and fitness assessment screening on all FFs in accordance with NFPA 1583 standards. Variables collected included: Weight (WT); Systolic Blood Pressure (SBP); Diastolic Blood Pressure (DBP); Resting Heart Rate (RHR); Bone Mineral Density via DEXA (BMD); Vertical Jump (VJ); Hand Grip Strength (HGS); Push-Ups (PU); Isometric Plank Hold (PL); 3-Repetition Maximum Bench Press (3RM); and Functional Movement Screen (FMS). Following completion of the assessment screening, FFs were given individual feedback by the exercise professionals on their values and provided educational material on corrective exercises to improve health and fitness. FFs were then tested using the same assessment protocol 12-months later. Paired-samples t-tests were run (α = 0.05) on all tested variables using a pre-post design. RESULTS: There were no significant differences among any of the health and fitness variables between pre and post-testing: WT (Mean Difference [MD]: -11.3 lbs, p = 0.12); SBP (MD: -1.5 mmHg, p = 0.80); DBP (MD: -1.2 mmHg, p = 0.74); RHR (MD: 8.0 bpm, p = 0.33); BMD (MD: -0.1 g/cm3, p = 0.76); VJ (MD: -0.2 in, p = 0.83); HGS (MD: 2.75 lbs, p = 0.59); PU (MD: 2.0 reps, p = 0.46); 3RM (MD: -7.5 lbs, p = 0.51); PL (MD: -20.8 sec, p = 0.39); FMS (MD: 0.3 au, p = 0.76).CONCLUSION: The results suggest that providing fitness education may be sufficient to help FFs maintain health and fitness status. It does not appear that education alone is enough to promote improvements in health or fitness variables in rural FFs. However, this pilot study represents one small rural FD and more robust testing is needed to see if these results hold with a larger sample size.

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