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Changes in Health and Fitness in Firefighter Recruits: An Observational Cohort Study

CORNELL, DAVID J.1; GNACINSKI, STACY L.1,2,3; MEYER, BARBARA B.2; EBERSOLE, KYLE T.1

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2017 - Volume 49 - Issue 11 - p 2223–2233
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001356
Applied Sciences

Purpose: To observe longitudinal changes in health and fitness among firefighter recruits.

Methods: Body composition, aerobic capacity, muscular power, muscular strength, and muscular endurance measures were longitudinally collected among 27 male firefighter recruits (mean ± SD, age = 29.9 ± 4.1 yr; height, 179.8 ± 4.6 cm; body mass, 87.2 ± 9.7 kg) at the beginning (W1) and end (W14) of their firefighter training academy, as well as at the end of their probationary period (W38).

Results: Repeated-measures multivariate analyses of variance (RM MANOVA) identified significant changes across time among measures of body composition (F10,17 = 30.390, Λ = 0.053, P < 0.001), aerobic capacity (F6,21 = 55.111, Λ = 0.060, P < 0.001), muscular power (F8,17 = 2.785, Λ = 0.433, P = 0.036), muscular strength (F6,20 = 34.908, Λ = 0.087, P < 0.001), and muscular endurance (F4,23 = 25.983, Λ = 0.181, P < 0.001). Follow-up post hoc analyses indicated that all measures, except muscular power, significantly improved from W1 to W14 (P < 0.05). However, significant decrements in many of these measures were also observed from W14 to W38 (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: The results of the current study suggest that measures of health and fitness among firefighter recruits significantly improved throughout the firefighter training academy (W1 to W14). However, many of these positive physiological adaptations are lost before these recruits finish their probationary period as active-duty firefighters (W14 to W38). These results highlight the importance of developing exercise programming that is designed for the active-duty firefighter cohort population to maintain the beneficial adaptations in health and fitness previously created during the firefighter training academy.

1Human Performance and Sport Physiology Laboratory, Integrative Health Care and Performance Unit, Department of Kinesiology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI; 2Laboratory for Sport Psychology and Performance Excellence, Integrative Health Care and Performance Unit, Department of Kinesiology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI; and 3Department of Health Sciences, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Drake University, Des Moines, IA

Address for correspondence: David J. Cornell, Ph.D., Human Performance and Sport Physiology Laboratory, Pavilion, Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, Suite 350, 3409N. Downer Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53211-2956; E-mail: dcornell@uwm.edu.

Submitted for publication February 2017.

Accepted for publication June 2017.

© 2017 American College of Sports Medicine