Training for firearms, fugitives HEALTHY CHOICES and ... trans-fats?

Regular stressors of the job are prompting more agencies to provide unique health and fitness incentives

     Parker says she often gets a range of reactions during her programs — from blank stares to jokes to lots of nods and interest. "Some people are not ready to hear it, and they joke around," she says. "But overall I'd say their reaction has been positive. One detective said to me it was the best idea the department's ever had. It's a little bit of a culture shift, but I think the [results] are going to happen over time."

     She notes they've already begun to see results with the new recruits, some of whom have lost inches off their waistlines. Parker keeps track of the weight and body stats of those who have gone through the program.

Custom facilities

     Wellness coordinator Pat Reilly with the Orange County (Florida) Sheriff's Office also knows that diet and exercise go hand-in-hand, and aims to get it down to an easy, enjoyable science.

     The sheriff's office has been using The Program, or FDS (Fitness Diagnostic System), at its facilities for the past five years. The Program is a total comprehensive gym combined with an easy and accurate testing process that tracks individual progress. Each time employees return to work out, they can see results from their previous test as well as their entire documented fitness history.

     One heart attack can be pricey — financially and otherwise. Reilly suggests that though they obviously cannot track what they've saved from such occurrences; they know it goes a long way toward prevention.

     "This one gentleman did a test and, in a year, he has lost 50 pounds of fat," says Reilly. "I can show you it's fat weight, not overall body weight. That means we've [helped avoid] cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and stroke. So did we save him from having a heart attack? You bet we did."

     The program is set up and runs itself, and the agency has only had to rework some pieces of strength equipment to fit the testing system. Reilly feels it is especially credible because the results are non-subjective and all "digital-diagnostic," lessening the chance for human error.

     The gym (all furnished by Mid Florida Fitness Distributors) offers free weights, yoga, defensive tactics classes, indoor cycling and a total gym; and the testing part helps them to show progress or lack of progress among employees using it. Members can even login and see where they're at online. In addition, users can choose to "access information from other agencies or groups," says Reilly. However, department statistics stay in-house and are private to just its group.

     Orange County Sheriff's Office does not mandate physical fitness standards, except for during the hiring process. Regardless, Reilly sees results amongst those participating — particularly in performance, quality of life issues, health and a lack of injuries.

     The department has eight separate fitness centers strategically located throughout the county so that all employees have 24-hour access, with the testing program located at the main center. All facilities and programs are free of charge to employees.

Behind the health screen

     Despite eating well and logging in time on the treadmill, signs of poor physical health are not always visible, and it is not always about achieving weight goals. Good health also requires vigilance and follow-ups with physicians and health care providers. Although most insurance policies cover quality care, sometimes it is not enough for individuals with hectic schedules, who may find it difficult to make and maintain regular appointments.

     For several years, the fire department in Hoover, Alabama has made on-site health screenings mandatory for its firefighters. And now, Capt. Jim Coker with the Hoover PD would like to do the same.

     "After looking at their program and discussing it, we decided this was something we definitely needed to pursue as well," Coker says. The fire department contracts medical screening services on-site, and it usually takes about three days to rotate through the different shifts.

     The screening generally covers things such as blood pressure, blood tests, X-rays: "Same things you'd get if you go to your doctor and asked for a physical," says Coker. If everything goes well with the budget, he hopes the program can be offered at no cost to officers.

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