Fat firemen shatter the typical athletic and muscular image we have of them
6th July 2012
It appears that our emergency services may be lagging behind in the battle to fight the flab. Less than four months after we reported that overweight police officers could face meaty fines and suspension, firemen have now come under scrutiny. Regulations in place demand that all staff must have a formidable level of fitness in order to deal with a multitude of serious and critical situations. Just some of the tasks they need to cope with include carrying hefty equipment, erecting heavy ladders and carry potential victims of fire to safety. Indeed, when one imagines a firefighter, the stereotypical image is that of a hunky male with a rippling six-pack and bulging biceps – however the reality looks far from this. Analysts have declared that over half of firemen could be too fat to effectively carry out their duties. Given that past U.S. studies made the shocking discovery that 80% of firefighters were deemed overweight or obese, it was surely only a matter of time before UK firefighters faced similar scrutinisation. Therefore, experts at Loughborough University studied 735 firemen and came back with some alarming results. They found 53% were actually classed as overweight and a further 13% were obese. The situation looks to be a long-term issue as the University first assessed the firefighters in 2008 and found almost identical results. The previous research found 54% to be overweight and 11% were obese. If the possible inhalation of smoke fumes was not damaging enough, their extra weight immediately puts them at an elevated risk of numerous health problems such as high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and breathing problems such as sleep apnea and asthma. The Loughborough researchers have published a detailed analysis of their results in the journal Occupational Medicine and spoke of their concerns, saying, “Obesity among firefighters can present a hindrance to operational effectiveness. The proportion of firefighters who are either overweight or obese is lower in this UK sample than that found in US studies. But it was higher than that found in the general population. Given the negative implications of obesity for performance, there is a need for further investment in health promotion research and practice.”