The prevalence of overweight, obesity, and substandard fitness in a population-based firefighter cohort

J Occup Environ Med. 2011 Mar;53(3):266-73. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31820af362.


Objective: To examine the prevalence of overweight and obesity in firefighters.

Methods: Body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and body fat percentage (BF%) were assessed in 478 career and 199 volunteer male firefighters from randomly selected departments.

Results: High prevalence rates of overweight + obesity (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m) and obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m) were found in career (79.5%; 33.5%) and volunteer firefighters (78.4%; 43.2%). False-positive obesity misclassification based on BMI, compared to waist circumference and BF%, was low (9.8% and 2.9%, respectively). False negatives were much higher: 32.9% and 13.0%. Obese firefighters demonstrated unfavorable cardiovascular disease (CVD) profiles.

Conclusions: The prevalence of overweight and obesity exceeded that of the US general population. Contrary to common wisdom, obesity was even more prevalent when assessed by BF% than by BMI, and misclassifying muscular firefighters as obese by using BMI occurred infrequently.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cholesterol / analysis
  • Cohort Studies
  • Fires*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Occupational Health*
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Triglycerides / analysis
  • Waist Circumference


  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol