Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Fit for duty July 2017: Simple ways to eliminate health hazards

By Sherry Dean   

Features Fitness Health and Wellness annex Canada firefighter fitness health wellness

When it comes to personal responsibility for health and wellness, most folks avoid the truth. It’s tough to admit that you are not doing the things you should be. To add insult to injury, through inactivity, you not only fall short on accountability, you most definitely put yourself at a higher risk of health problems.

It may be hard to admit

Firefighters face many dangers in the line of duty. We are twice as likely to develop mesothelioma than the general population and we are at an increased risk to various forms of cancer. According to a 2010 study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 68 per cent of firefighters in the United States will develop cancer compared to 22 per cent of the average population. Those numbers are astounding, yet many of us avoid annual physical testing, knowing the very real, and scientifically proven, health risks we face.

The health and safety risks associated with responding to emergencies are countless and include biological, chemical, physical and psychological dangers. However, many of these factors are within our control. We can choose what we eat, how well we sleep and our exercise regimes, which are all important to health and wellness. Unfortunately, no one (but you) is going to make sure you are making healthier choices. It can be very difficult for to turn conscious decisions into concrete action; it can seem like a daunting task, like standing on the edge of a cliff looking down.  

Your general practitioner may not know what responding to a fire call requires mentally and physically. Without first-hand experience,  it’s difficult to measure the physical intensity our bodies may reach in a very short duration when we respond to emergencies.  It’s your responsibility to educate your doctor about the physical realities of the job. It’s also your responsibility to check in with your doctor annually to regularly monitor changes in your health.

Call your doctor, book an appointment and get checked out. No excuses. No delay.


Working out is a great way to improve and maintain your overall fitness. However, if don’t have a good diet, you won’t get the same results. Working out and eating right is the best way to improve your overall health. If you don’t know how to make good choices when it comes to food, it can be very difficult to improve your diet. There are a couple of basic things that will help you. Eat whole foods. If it comes in a box, can or package, avoid it or at least limit it. Keep your meals separate from your treats. It is OK to treat yourself once in a while, but when it comes to nutrition, eating good foods on a regular basis is best. Moderation is a great approach.  

There are many ways for firefighters to remain fit and healthy, but nothing will work if you avoid visiting  your doctor to learn more about your health. Don’t wait until it’s too late for preventative action. It’s an unneccary risk.

Now it’s time for a workout. You don’t even have to leave home (except to go visit your doctor and local grocery store).

Get ready to complete three rounds of the following workout:

  • 10 burpees – chest to the floor, jump when you return to your feet.
  • 20 pushups – mix it up. If they are easy, travel or change your arm width.
  • 30 single-leg squats (15 each leg) – on one leg or place one leg behind you elevated on a chair.
  • 20 inverted rows – lay on your back under the edge of the kitchen table, reach up to the edge and pull your chest up to touch the table.
  • 10 tricep dips – between chairs feet on floor or elevated on another chair. Add some weight for resistance.
  • 20 split lunges – arms overhead lunge, jump to switch legs.
  • 30 mountain climbers – keep your knees below your body or move them alternately to the outside.
  • 20 Russian twists – feet elevated off the floor twist your body side to side, not just your arms.
  • 10 pike presses – downward dog position, perform an overhead push up lowering your head to the floor and pressing back up.
  • 1-minute plank.

Repeat x2 and enjoy. 

Sherry Dean is a career firefighter/engineer with Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency. She has more than 20 years of experience in fitness and training.

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