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Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31820af362
Original Articles

The Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Substandard Fitness in a Population-Based Firefighter Cohort

Poston, Walker S. C. PhD, MPH; Haddock, C. Keith PhD; Jahnke, Sara A. PhD; Jitnarin, Nattinee PhD; Tuley, Brianne C. BA; Kales, Stefanos N. MD, MPH

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Abstract

Objective: To examine the prevalence of overweight and obesity in firefighters.

Methods: Body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and body fat percentage (BF%) were assessed in 478 career and 199 volunteer male firefighters from randomly selected departments.

Results: High prevalence rates of overweight + obesity (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2) and obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2) were found in career (79.5%; 33.5%) and volunteer firefighters (78.4%; 43.2%). False-positive obesity misclassification based on BMI, compared to waist circumference and BF%, was low (9.8% and 2.9%, respectively). False negatives were much higher: 32.9% and 13.0%. Obese firefighters demonstrated unfavorable cardiovascular disease (CVD) profiles.

Conclusions: The prevalence of overweight and obesity exceeded that of the US general population. Contrary to common wisdom, obesity was even more prevalent when assessed by BF% than by BMI, and misclassifying muscular firefighters as obese by using BMI occurred infrequently.

©2011The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

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