Police Fitness Centers
October 18, 2018
But what happens to fitness levels after the police academy… when the real life police work begins?
The daily grind of being in law enforcement is a sedentary routine that typically consists of patrolling, often in cars, and paperwork. Statistically speaking a police officer is 25 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than from action in the field.(1)
More and more departments are encouraging their officers to exercise, stay healthy and reduce stress levels by having an on-site fitness amenity. They can be extravagant or simple, but many can be done in an affordable manner. Boosters and grants will even finance a new or upgrade fitness room.
Departments who are in the best shape have a designated person who spearheads the wellness movement and it’s typically because that man or woman is a fitness buff themselves. Finding that person is key to your overall department health.
One Lieutenant, in Ohio, is encouraging all his officers to wear a weighted vest while working out. The vest adds the feeling and weight similar to bullet proof vests. Adding the weight during practice makes ‘game time’ a lot easier! Weight vests are a simple addition, but they provide long-term impact.
A few things to consider when thinking about planning a department fitness room, beyond just the budget, is to find a designated space where equipment can go. How many people will be using the facility? If you currently have a fitness room are people using it, why or why not?
To get started find a reputable fitness equipment dealer who specializes in commercial fitness is key. Avoid going to a local sporting goods store, because the equipment is primarily for home users. Putting home equipment like this creates a liability for your department since your facility is considered commercial and will be used more than the average home user. Ask around to other departments to see who they use for their fitness equipment, who understands law enforcement fitness and who offers the best service.
From a specialty fitness equipment dealer’s perspective, they are looking at a few different health considerations to integrate into your amenity.
- Cardiovascular activity. Even a slow 20 minutes is better than no 20 minutes.
- Flexibility. Most people don’t stretch enough and nobody wants to be popping a hamstring in the middle of a call.
- Strength. Police officers are tough mentally, but they also need to be strong physically.
An ideal fitness room would have one or two pieces of cardio equipment, like a commercial treadmill or elliptical, but ideally both. They are versatile pieces that accommodate a variety of users with or without physical limitations. Distance isn’t the goal for a healthy police officer. Think about it, if a police officer is running they aren’t running more than a half mile. The ideal is that an officer may have to run, but back up should be by their side with five minutes or less. Just twenty minutes of cardio a few times a week can do wonders for heart health.
Another popular piece that police departments are investing in lately is also one of the cheapest, a smart rack. Smart racks hold and organizes a variety of items like bands, medicine balls and stability balls. The beauty of these systems is that they are a contained storage unit and include a variety of self-guided stretches along with exercises to be customized by each user. Stretching is the most forgotten component of exercise, but is so important to range of motion.
A Smith machine is the safest way to do squats and bench presses because it provides controlled movements. It also has safety features that eliminate the need for a spotter, so it allows officers to workout alone and on their time. A set of dumbbells and a bench are also economical additions that will last for many years in a well-cared for fitness room.
On average a simple, yet effective fitness room can be done with one piece of commercial cardio equipment, a smart rack, dumbbells and a weight bench. All of these can be purchased for around $3500.
Maybe you are in a department with a budget that just doesn’t exist. (It’s out there and you aren’t alone.) How can you still stay fit and encourage your department to walk the healthy lifestyle path?
- Ask for help from your community. Yoga is a fabulous way to increase strength, flexibility and destress. Any yoga teacher would be thrilled to donate an hour a week to help your department. Many times the end of yoga sessions include a guided meditation which does wonders for overall mental and physical health.
- Pedometers. Sure some are better than others, but the best thing they do is remind us that we need to move. They give a purpose and a goal to our health and make us realize we probably aren’t doing enough. Pass them out to your department and start a competition with some prizes and perks.
- Nutrition, who can forget nutrition. Again, nutritionists love to talk food and would be happy to donate their time in support those who protect them day in and day out.
An officer’s job is to protect, serve and come home at night! You can’t control everything that happens on the job, but you can control your reaction and part of that reaction is how fit for duty you are, mentally and physically.
Fitness shouldn’t be an afterthought for a department.
(1) Tracy, Tom. “Fit for Duty: Demand It.” Police. March 1993. p. 18