What Are the Most Important Fitness Measures for Firefighters?

Article ID: 570523

Released: 8-Nov-2010 10:00 AM EST

Source Newsroom: Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins

Newswise — Two physical fitness measures—aerobic fitness and resistance to muscle fatigue—are key to firefighters' ability to pass a standard test of firefighting skills, reports a study in the November issue of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading provider of information and business intelligence for students, professionals, and institutions in medicine, nursing, allied health, and pharmacy.

The study helps to identify important physical fitness goals for firefighters, according to Andrew K. Sheaff, M.S., and colleagues at the Department of Kinesiology of University of Maryland. "Furthermore, the results...provide further support that active firefighters lacking minimal aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels may not be prepared for the required duties of the firefighting profession," the researchers write. The senior author was Ben F. Hurley, Ph.D. How Does Fitness Affect Firefighters' Chances of Passing the CPAT?The study was designed to determine which physical fitness measures affect firefighters' chances of passing the Candidate Physical Ability Test Program (CPAT). The CPAT is a standard test developed to assess recruits' ability to perform essential firefighting skills, such as climbing stairs, carrying equipment, and dragging a victim to safety—all while wearing a heavy backpack.

In the study, 33 recruits participated in four days of testing, in which a wide range of physical fitness variables were assessed. On the fifth day, they took the CPAT. Based on the ability to perform eight tasks in a specified time, 18 recruits passed and 15 failed the test.

Power generated during an anaerobic cycling test and maximal oxygen uptake—a measure of overall cardiovascular fitness—was significantly higher in recruits who passed the CPAT, compared to those who failed. The same two factors were related to CPAT score, along with four other fitness measures: fatigue during the anaerobic cycling test, upper body strength, grip strength, and the heart rate response to stair climbing. Leg strength did not affect CPAT performance.

Overall, the best predictors of CPAT performance were resistance to muscle fatigue and maximal oxygen uptake. In combination, these two factors explained more than 80 percent of the variation in CPAT scores. Only one of the eight firefighting skills tested on the CPAT (the "ceiling breach and pull") was unrelated to the physical fitness measures tested.

Firefighting is a physically demanding profession, yet few studies have evaluated the most important physical fitness measures for firefighters. The CPAT is a nationally established firefighting stimulation test, commonly used to screen applicants. The new study is one of the first to evaluate the physical attributes needed to perform well on the CPAT.

"The results...indicate the important contributions of both aerobic and anaerobic fitness to successful CPAT performance," the researchers write. Sheaff and colleagues believe that training programs aimed at improving firefighting performance in general—and CPAT performance in particular—should target these specific attributes. They also think their results may help in screening potential applicants for the necessary fitness to pass the CPAT, as well as for active firefighting duties.

About The Journal of Strength and Conditioning ResearchThe National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is an international nonprofit educational association founded in 1978. The NSCA develops and presents the most advanced information regarding strength training and conditioning practices and injury prevention. Central to its mission the NSCA bridges the gap between the scientist in the laboratory and the practitioner in the field. By working to find practical applications for new research findings in the strength and conditioning field, the Association fosters the development of strength training and conditioning as a discipline and as a profession.

About Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW) is a leading international publisher for healthcare professionals and students with nearly 300 periodicals and 1,500 books in more than 100 disciplines publishing under the LWW brand, as well as content-based sites and online corporate and customer services.

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