Fitness: Lead By Example

April 7, 2009
Have you ever been to see a doctor who was overweight or smelled of stale cigarette smoke? How many ER staff have you seen outside smoking after calling a respiratory arrest?

Most medics entered EMS to make a difference in people's lives. We have spent countless hours in school learning the art of 'street medicine' and perfecting all that comes with medical and trauma calls for service. We are thrust into people's lives at the most trying and stressful moments when we can truly make a difference in that patient's outcome with our skills. Couple that with countless hours of continuing education and re-certification courses, and our minds become well conditioned machines in the treatment and diagnosis of emergencies.

With that being said, have you ever been to see a doctor who was overweight or smelled of stale cigarette smoke? How many ER staff have you seen outside smoking after calling a respiratory arrest? When was the last time a box of doughnuts lasted more than a few seconds on the table in the station?

In our careers, EMS or other, we are constantly judged on our actions and appearance. What does our uniform look like, is the crew overweight, hair style, etc. How much confidence will you as a patient have if the crew that comes to aid you is obese and wheezing from walking the stairs? How many patients have we cared for that were obese and had many of the comorbid factors that accompany excessive weight? With all of our advanced knowledge on disease processes and the causative factors that promote disease process, we as a population take little care of ourselves to prevent these processes.

When was the last time you did something for your self? We are conditioned to give all the time, and by default we give every day we go to work. But, when was the last time you took a long walk, read a good book, had a stress relieving workout, laughed or just relaxed?

The past few articles I have been harping on everyone to be more fit minded, healthy and proactive. But we all seem to forget that stress, fatigue and over stimulation (from food and work/life) can cause many of these behaviors that we all need to alter. So why not take the lead for yourself? Every day do one good thing for you, and after a week, why not do two good things for yourself. Soon you will have established some healthy habits and unknowingly influenced others to do the same. With that being said, there is no reason, with all the medical knowledge you possess, to go on ignoring the fact that there are consequences for your actions. If you smoke you know the end result; if you eat high fat food and avoid fruits and veggies, you know the end result. None of us want to be the patient but most of us take steps every day toward that exact goal. Lead by example and others will follow: do things for you. Exercise, eat well, make simple lifestyle changes and learn to relax.

EMS is a career that puts high demands on your body, both physically and emotionally. Will you listen to a doctor who is fat lecturing on nutrition and exercise? Why should your patients listen to or respect you when obesity or poor fitness limits your ability to perform your job? Instead of sugary snacks, chips, burgers, soft drinks and caffeine try gradually integrating healthy alternatives. Fruits and veggies make a great snack. Visit the local health food store to try some natural snack bars. Drink water -- we are made mostly of water yet almost all of us are dehydrated. Proper hydration will lessen fatigue, skin and hair will look better, gastrointestinal function will improve and it will help you to drop a few pounds. You will just have to get used to running to the bathroom for a few weeks until your bladder expands. Limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks -- this will lead to decreased body weight from empty calories and limit the number of 'sugar crashes' you experience throughout the day.

Change must come from within. Even after our EMS careers we have to live with the body we have; if you trash it from both a metabolical and musculoskeletal standpoint you have not learned from the countless mistakes of those you cared for.

About the Author

Bryan Fass

Bryan Fass

is a leading expert on public safety injury prevention.  As the president and founder of Fit Responder Bryan’s company works nationally with departments, corporations; state and local governments to design and run targeted injury prevention and wellness programs. He is frequently contacted for expert opinion and content contribution for all aspects of public safety fitness, ergonomics and wellness. Bryan authored the Fit Responder book used by departments and schools plus writes for numerous web and peer-reviewed journals including the NSCA-Tactical Strength & Conditioning journal,, & best practices in EMS. Bryan holds a bachelors’ degree in sports medicine with over 17 years of clinical practice, was a paramedic for over 8 years, and is certified as an Athletic Trainer (ATC, LAT), Strength Coach (CSCS) and the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). Fit Responder developed the nation’s first validated pre-hire Physical Abilities Test for EMS.  Bryan is a sought-after speaker on a variety of topics including risk reduction, employee self-care, real world wellness and How to Eat on the street.

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