BACKGROUND: Police officers operate in a high-demand environment requiring them to be physically, mentally, and tactically able of handling motor vehicle accidents, robberies and foot pursuits while wearing equipment weighing over 9 kg (20 pounds). Additionally, daily duties often involve sedentary work, such as conducting car patrols, completing paperwork, interviewing individuals; high stress, long hours, and shift work that challenges quality sleep. The physically and mentally challenging nature of the job results in serious challenges for the health of law enforcement personnel. Police officers have an increased risk of musculoskeletal injury and cardiovascular disease compared to the general population. Metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and an overall sedentary lifestyle both in and out of work is common in this population. Finding ways to decrease preventable diseases in our public safety officials is imperative. METHODS: A 14 part wellness assessment was completed on 80 local law enforcement officers working for a medium sized city with limited resources, (male = 76, female=4; ages 21-65 years old) for comparison to general population norms as a first step in developing an customized wellness program. RESULTS: A within age groups analysis of variance (ANOVA) comparison was conducted to compare fitness scores between the age groups and compared to the population norms for those age groups. Statistical significance was found within age groups for body fat percentage (27.6 ± 7.1, p= 0.00049), vertical jump power watts/kg (49.7 ±11.1, p= 0.00038), and estimated maximum oxygen consumption (VO2maximum) (ml/kg/min) (34.55 ± 6.4, p= 0.00064). CONCLUSIONS: Officer muscle strength was within/above population norms. The significant decrease of estimated VO2Max as officers age (20-30-year-olds, 36.73 ±7.98; 31-40-year-olds, 33.88 ±6.37; and 40 years old and over, 29.87 ±10.93), coupled with almost 90% of officers testing below population norm indicated poor cardiovascular fitness overall. Poor cardiovascular fitness has been linked to increased mortality rates in the general population and in the law enforcement population. Together these results indicate specific mortality and morbidity concerns. Police officers should integrate a cardiovascular fitness program and consider methods such as mindfulness training to reduce the hyper-alertness that is often seen throughout the profession due job demands.

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