Working in Emergency Medical Services can take its toll on our bodies. It’s a physically demanding job, and whether you’re in an ambulance for extended periods of time, moving patients, or dispatching and at your desk for hours, it’s important to stay in shape to maintain optimal performance. Here are a few tips and exercises from EMS professionals that will enable you to stay tip-top for when duty calls.
The goal is to provide safe and effective exercises that require minimal equipment and can be done virtually anywhere. Please keep in mind that any rigorous exercise should not be performed without consulting a physician, and it’s always a good idea to begin with warming up first.
- Walking is the easiest and most effective way to get the blood flowing before stretching. It can be done on a break or a lull in the action for 5-10 minutes.
- Stretching should come next and be done gradually, so as not to tear the muscles. Yoga is a great stretching technique for first responders. This video from firefighter/training officer Aaron Zamzaow provides a few examples. Check it out!
- Depending on the amount of lifting or sitting that you’re doing every day lower back issues can manifest if your core strength is not up to par. Crunches are an easy, equipment free and proven method to build that strength. Simply lay down on your back, keep your knees bent, and while using your hands to support your head, lift your shoulders and squeeze your abdominal muscles for 1-2 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Avoid placing any strain on your neck while performing this exercise.
- Step-ups target your hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes. These are great because they can be done using any stable raised surface available. Some first responders even cited using the rig bumper in the field to get a quick set in. With one foot placed firmly on the ground lift your opposite foot and body onto the step maintaining balance. Then return to the starting position and repeat. Keeping your back straight and movements smooth and controlled will achieve the best results. Three sets of 8-12 per leg is a good quick pump.
- Next, we have good old-fashioned push-ups. Good for the core, pectoralis, triceps and deltoids, push-ups are the perfect upper body exercise that can be done anywhere. There over 10 different variations depending on what works best for your body type. The standard push-up requires you to start in a high plank position with arms extended and palms on the floor positioned at shoulder width. Toes should be planted on the floor and in line with your legs. Maintain a straight back while keeping your line of sight just a few feet in front of you. Bend your elbows in a gradual controlled motion until your chest grazes the floor. Push your palms into the floor while exhaling to return to the starting position. A good goal to begin with is 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps and gradually increase from there.
The benefits of regular stretching and exercise for first responders cannot be overlooked. In 2020 the CDC reported 16,900 injuries in the EMS sector. Of those injuries, 25% were due to sprains and strains which can be mitigated by using proper stretching techniques and exercise. While there are many other great workouts and tons of information out there, these are some simple exercises that can be done anywhere, anytime, and we hope you find them helpful.
As EMS professionals our bodies must be in shape to perform well. Through exercise we can achieve this and ensure that we ready for the challenges ahead. Are you ready?