Changes in Health and Fitness in Firefighter Recruits: An Observational Cohort Study

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 Nov;49(11):2223-2233. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001356.


Purpose: To observe longitudinal changes in health and fitness among firefighter recruits.

Methods: Body composition, aerobic capacity, muscular power, muscular strength, and muscular endurance measures were longitudinally collected among 27 male firefighter recruits (mean ± SD, age = 29.9 ± 4.1 yr; height, 179.8 ± 4.6 cm; body mass, 87.2 ± 9.7 kg) at the beginning (W1) and end (W14) of their firefighter training academy, as well as at the end of their probationary period (W38).

Results: Repeated-measures multivariate analyses of variance (RM MANOVA) identified significant changes across time among measures of body composition (F10,17 = 30.390, Λ = 0.053, P < 0.001), aerobic capacity (F6,21 = 55.111, Λ = 0.060, P < 0.001), muscular power (F8,17 = 2.785, Λ = 0.433, P = 0.036), muscular strength (F6,20 = 34.908, Λ = 0.087, P < 0.001), and muscular endurance (F4,23 = 25.983, Λ = 0.181, P < 0.001). Follow-up post hoc analyses indicated that all measures, except muscular power, significantly improved from W1 to W14 (P < 0.05). However, significant decrements in many of these measures were also observed from W14 to W38 (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: The results of the current study suggest that measures of health and fitness among firefighter recruits significantly improved throughout the firefighter training academy (W1 to W14). However, many of these positive physiological adaptations are lost before these recruits finish their probationary period as active-duty firefighters (W14 to W38). These results highlight the importance of developing exercise programming that is designed for the active-duty firefighter cohort population to maintain the beneficial adaptations in health and fitness previously created during the firefighter training academy.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Composition
  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness / physiology
  • Firefighters*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Physical Conditioning, Human* / methods
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*