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Learn the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for law enforcement officers

This is an excerpt from Fit For Duty 3rd Edition With Online Video by Robert J. Hoffman & Thomas R. Collingwood.

Benefits of a Fitness Program

So far, we’ve discussed some of the negative effects of poor fitness. Here are some of the benefits of an effective fitness program.

Better Job Performance

Studies have found that physically fit officers generally receive higher job performance ratings. Some additional job performance benefits are as follows.

• Improved performance of essential physical tasks. For the unfit, this improvement may equate to satisfactory performance in areas that were previously below par. For the already fit, it may mean improving satisfactory performance to an even higher level.
• Reduced likelihood of using excessive force. Officers who are more confident and fit are less likely to be involved in use-of-force situations for several reasons. For instance, a suspect may think twice about challenging a physically fit officer. Or, a physically fit officer may be able to meet a physical challenge without resorting to the next level of force (e.g., going from grappling to using a baton). Finally, a physically fit officer is likely to overcome a suspect on foot and avoid having to use more force than necessary to prevent someone from fleeing the scene.

Improved Health

In addition to improved performance, you are likely to see the following health benefits.

Prevention of health problems. Increased fitness not only restores health but also prevents health problems from developing. For example, regular vigorous physical activity helps prevent coronary heart disease and assists in weight control. Exercise that builds muscular strength and endurance and develops flexibility may protect against injury, disability, and osteoporosis. Physical activity also can bring about changes that help prevent and control hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and diabetes.
Longer life. Increased fitness can also contribute to longevity. In a study of 16,936 Harvard alumni over a 16-year period (Paffenbarger et al. 1986), those who expended at least 2,000 calories per week in physical activity had a 28 percent lower risk of death from any cause. Research done at the Cooper Institute (Blair et al. 2005) indicated a reduced mortality risk of approximately 50 percent for all causes, including cardiovascular disease, as a result of being active and fit.
Better quality of life. Increased fitness can improve people’s daily lives. Participants in fitness programs have less fatigue and greater productivity. Regular exercise has also been shown to help reduce anxiety and tension and reduce cardiovascular reactions to stress. Extensive research is demonstrating that fitness can help prevent depression and anxiety and increase self-esteem (Craft and Perna 2004; Collingwood et al. 2000).
Less risk of disability. You’ve worked hard at your profession and certainly look forward to a well-deserved retirement. The numbers show that many officers are unable to fully enjoy their retirement years because of health problems that are directly related to lifestyle choices. Making changes in your lifestyle now can help ensure that you get to enjoy what you have worked so hard for.

Lower Department Costs

The following benefits are common among workers involved in a fitness program.

• Fewer sick days. Fit and active employees have lower absenteeism rates. Companies report 20 to 35 percent reductions in absenteeism after the initiation of a worksite fitness program (Blair et al. 1986). Studies performed with law enforcement officers (Boyce et al. 1991; Steinhardt et al. 1991) indicate that officers who are fit and active, especially those over age 35, have absenteeism rates reduced between 40 and 70 percent. One agency reported an 87 percent drop in sick time due to job-related injuries (Mouser 1986).
• Improved productivity. Fitness and productivity tend to be positively related. Data from occupations such as sales, textile work, and office work indicate that active workers have higher productivity. Studies of law enforcement officers that analyzed their supervisors’ ratings of performance indicated that the physically fit, active officers obtained higher ratings.
Reduced health care costs. Data consistently suggest that the introduction of a worksite fitness program reduces worker health care costs. Studies summarized by Gettman (1986) found that medical expenses dropped for participating and active employees. A study performed with a federal law enforcement agency (Collingwood 1985) found that fit and unfit officers suffered about the same number of on-duty injuries. However, the fit officers tended to get hurt while making arrests and conducting foot pursuits, while the unfit officers tended to get injured in performing mundane tasks such as getting out of a chair. One law enforcement agency had its annual workers’ compensation insurance premium lowered by $226,000 a few years after starting a fitness program because claims had decreased significantly (Cox et al. 1981). It is estimated that the cost of replacing an officer due to early retirement for disability is 167 percent of the officer’s salary (Geier 1987). Lower agency health care costs mean more money for an agency to spend in other areas, such as training programs, salaries, and benefits.

Learn more about Fit for Duty, Third Edition With Online Video.