Firefighter Health Week: Day Six

Just like proper overhaul keeps us from coming back for a rekindle, good follow-through in wellness will keep you from falling back on bad habits.

FireRescue Magazine and Firefighter are sharing the National Volunteer Fire Council’s daily resources for this year’s National Firefighter Health Week 2011. Day Six gives you tips to stay focused.

The hardest part of your health and wellness initiatives will be staying focused and on track in the long term. Start to change the problem areas of your lifestyle now and you’ll find that they become second nature after a short time. You can greatly increase your chances of a successful long-term health plan simply by learning how to eat healthy, develop a fitness routine, quit smoking, and limit your alcohol intake.

  • Incorporating small changes every day can lead to big results. Take the stairs instead of the elevator; park in the spot at the back of the lot at the grocery store; replace fries with a salad; drink water at one meal instead of soda; take 5 minutes a day to think about things that you are grateful for; let someone in front of you in traffic. All of these easy activities help create a well-rounded lifestyle that will help keep you mentally and physically healthy. Find more ideas at
  • If you smoke, take the steps to quite with the Put It Out campaign. You probably know that smoking is linked to a number of life-threatening and life-altering diseases, including heart disease, lung disease, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis, among others. The Put It Out campaign, created by the National Volunteer Fire Council in partnership with Pfizer, helps first responders quit smoking and stay quit. It also offers resources to departments, state associations, and families to support first responders in their smoking cessation efforts.
  • Hold a PPE Donning Drill to make sure everyone at the station is completely prepared for the next call and has the skills needed to protect themselves from toxins and debris during every response.
  • Let your members know that they must use their SCBA fully and properly every time. Safety equipment doesn’t work if it’s not being used. Hang flyers, signs, or posters at the station to remind members that this is the policy of the department.
  • Something many firefighters look forward to while on duty is cooking dinner, and nobody will disagree that firefighter recipes are top of the line, but they’re not always the healthiest. Check out these heart-healthy recipes and cook them up at the station – you’ll find that you don’t have to sacrifice taste for health!
  • Visit the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Center to learn how to develop a diet that will keep you healthy and find out what foods can help you reach your goals.
  • Log in to a meal-tracking site, such as the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Menu Planner or These sites allow you to enter what you eat and see what your total calories and fat are for the day.
  • Limit your daily sodium intake. A low sodium diet can help keep your blood pressure levels from rising.
  • Take the Fired Up For Fitness Challenge. As you reach certain benchmark goals over the course of a year, you will receive motivational rewards from the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program. After the Challenge ends, use the tool to continue to track your fitness hours so that you make sure you stay on track.
  • Participate in a local health-related fundraising walk. This will not only raise funds for research to prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or other illnesses, but also get you moving while giving you the satisfaction of supporting a great cause.
  • Incorporate walking into your daily routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the far end of the parking lot, go for a walk during lunch, and/or take an after-dinner walk around the neighborhood.
  • Make sure you’re activity levels meet your body’s requirements. Use the American Heart Association’s Physical Activity Guidelines.
  • Listen to this Heart-Health Podcast where Heather Leader of the American Heart Association (AHA) talks about the AHA Start! program and steps you can take to improve your heart-health.
  • Use the American Heart Association’s My Life Check tool to assess your current health, learn how to improve, and track your progress.
  • Take some of the pressure off your heart by learning how limiting your alcohol intake can lower your blood pressure. Incorporate these suggestions made by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
  • Contact Wills for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that offers free estate planning services to first responders. Knowing that your loved ones are protected creates healthy peace of mind.

Go here for more resources

Photo courtesy of Wayne Barrall.

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