Skip to main content

Neighbors of Kane County

Fitness and firefighting

The fire service is a very physically demanding job that presents many different challenges. Firefighters and paramedics need to be ready at all times. To keep the personnel fit and potentially reduce injuries, the Batavia Fire Department has created a daily workout routine that is specific to the kind of work firefighters and paramedics do on the job.

Statistics on firefighter health and safety nationwide are not encouraging. More than 30% of firefighters get hurt on the job each year, and 50% of early retirements among firefighters are due to injuries sustained on the job, including heart ailments, back injuries and other stress-induced maladies. That leads to lost time and good people leaving fire departments.

It started off with a two month introduction to “reset the body” by starting with the basics of getting everyone moving properly. The main goals were to correct any bad habits that may have developed over the years, prevent injuries, and increase flexibility and muscle endurance. In order to accomplish these goals, basic functional movements and proper breathing were stressed in the beginning. Firefighters and paramedics are constantly moving in ways that are hard on the body, such as picking up a patient off the ground, or dragging a hose down a hallway in 80 lbs. of gear. Later some cardiovascular exercise, body weight muscle endurance, and a variety of different stretches were introduced. The idea is to change the culture.

These workouts are also building more teamwork and confidence to perform their jobs better. The group has adopted a number of sayings to focus and help with motivation:

Being fit for duty is one of the most vital and fundamental ingredients of being a successful firefighter.

They don’t work out; they train for what the community expects them to do.

All these incremental changes are designed to prepare Batavia firefighters to do a better job in service to the community. The Batavia firefighter fitness program is making waves in the greater firefighting community. Metropolitan cities to the east of Batavia have inquired about how to get things started in their own departments. Better fitness could indeed be the wave of the future for firefighters in general.

By being proactive and acknowledging the importance of moving properly and the amount of physical demands of the job, the health and fitness culture of the Batavia Fire Department is moving in the right direction.