The hardest part of your health and wellness initiatives will be staying focused and on track in the long term. Start to change the problem areas of your lifestyle now and you’ll find that they become second nature after a short time. You can greatly increase your chances of a successful long-term health plan simply by learning how to eat healthy, develop a fitness routine, quit smoking, and limit your alcohol intake.
- Incorporating small changes every day can lead to big results. Take the stairs instead of the elevator; park in the spot at the back of the lot at the grocery store; replace fries with a salad; drink water at one meal instead of soda; take 5 minutes a day to think about things that you are grateful for; let someone in front of you in traffic. All of these easy activities help create a well-rounded lifestyle that will help keep you mentally and physically healthy.
- If you smoke, take the steps to quit. Smoking is linked to a number of life-threatening and life-altering diseases, including heart disease, lung disease, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis, among others.
- Hold a PPE Donning Drill to make sure everyone at the station is completely prepared for the next call and has the skills needed to protect themselves from toxins and debris during every response.
- Let your members know that they must use their SCBA fully and properly every time. Safety equipment doesn’t work if it’s not being used. Hang flyers, signs, or posters at the station to remind members that this is the policy of the department.
- Something many firefighters look forward to while on duty is cooking dinner, and nobody will disagree that firefighter recipes are top of the line, but they’re not always the healthiest. Check out these heart-healthy recipes and cook them up at the station – you’ll find that you don’t have to sacrifice taste for health!
- Visit the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Center to learn how to develop a diet that will keep you healthy and find out what foods can help you reach your goals.
- Log in to a meal-tracking site, such as the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Menu Planner or SparkPeople.com. These sites allow you to enter what you eat and see what your total calories and fat are for the day.
- Limit your daily sodium intake. A low sodium diet can help keep your blood pressure levels from rising.
- Participate in a local health-related fundraising walk. This will not only raise funds for research to prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or other illnesses, but also get you moving while giving you the satisfaction of supporting a great cause.
- Incorporate walking into your daily routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the far end of the parking lot, go for a walk during lunch, and/or take an after-dinner walk around the neighborhood.
- Make sure you’re activity levels meet your body’s requirements. Use the American Heart Association’s Physical Activity Guidelines.
- Use the American Heart Association’s My Life Check tool to assess your current health, learn how to improve, and track your progress.
- Contact Wills for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that offers free estate planning services to first responders. Knowing that your loved ones are protected creates healthy peace of mind.
Tools and Resources:
Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Academy of Nutrition and Dietics
American Diabetes Association
North American Fire Fighter Veteran Network
U.S. Department of Agriculture
American Heart Association
NutritionData: Know What You Eat
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)