BACKGROUND: Firefighting is a physically demanding occupation that requires a certain level of fitness to optimally perform. Limited fire departments in the United States have wellness programming, and even fewer have embedded fitness programs. PURPOSE: The purpose of this longitudinal study was to determine the changes in fitness among rural firefighters with an embedded fitness program. METHODS: A cohort of 70 career firefighters from one southeastern fire department volunteered to participate in the study. The department participated in on-shift daily exercise as part of its health and wellness programming. Fitness variables were measured following the guidelines set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) over time (2019-2023). The average age at the time the study started was 29.84±9.77 years. A mixed models with repeated measures adjusting for age was used to estimate the trend of Fitness variables (Plank Time [PT], # Push-Ups [PU] , Maximal oxygen consumption, VO2 volume [VO2], Isometric Mid Thigh Pull [IMP], Bench Press estimated 1RM [BP], and Countermovement Jump [CMJ]. RESULTS: PT decreased on average by 19.10±4.87 sec (p=0.0002, Effect Size [ES]=3.92) in 2020 as compared to 2019; and there were statistically significant differences for the other years. PU decreased on average by 2.07±0.79 (p=0.011, ES=2.62) in 2020 and increased by 7.03±1.11 (p<0.0001, ES=6.33) when compared to 2019. VO2 decreased by 5.78±1.15 ml/kg/min (p<0.0001, ES=5.02) in 2023 as compared to 2019 with no statistically significant changes in other years. IMP decreased on average by 5.21±2.92 lbs in 2020 compared to 2019 but was not statistically significant (p=0.079, ES=1.78). IMP increased by 6.51±3.26 lbs in 2021 compared to 2019 (p=0.049, ES=2.00). This improvement was also present in 2023 (IMP increased by 8.90±5.56 lbs), but was not statistically significant (p=0.111, ES=1.6). CMJ decreased by 6.30±1.05 cm on average (p<0.0001, ES=6.00) in 2020 compared to 2019. CONCLUSIONS: Across a 5-year span, there were significant fluctuations in all fitness variables. Changes may be attributed to a number of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in fitness policies, fitness incentive programming, and or employee turnover. Tracking fitness among firefighters is crucial as it allows active monitoring of changes and facilitates individualized and department-wide programming.

This document is currently not available here.