A study by researchers at Loughborough University found half of the UK`s firefighters are classed as overweight and 13 per cent are clinically obese. Not only are obesity rates rising in the fire service, the researchers found, but they are already higher than among the general population. Fire Service regulations call for employees to have high levels of physical fitness to cope with potentially dangerous situations.
These state firefighters need to be fit enough to climb stairs in high-rise buildings, carry unconscious victims, pitch heavy ladders and haul bulky equipment in a rush. The Loughborough researchers undertook the study after it emerged that obesity rates among firefighters in the US were soaring, with a shocking 80 per cent of staff currently classed as overweight or obese. To see if the UK has a similar problem, researchers recruited 735 male firefighters to measure their body mass index -a comparison of their weight to their height – and their body composition.
When they first assessed them, in 2008, they found 11 per cent were obese and 54 per cent were overweight. Among the general public in 2008, 42 per cent of men and 32 per cent of women were overweight and a further one in four were obese. The researchers measured the same firemen again in 2011 and found that while the proportion who were overweight had dropped slightly to 53 per cent, the obesity rate had risen to 13 per cent.
The latest figures for the general public show that in 2010, 42 per cent of men and 32 per cent of women were overweight and one in four was obese. In a report on their findings, published in the journal Occupational Medicine, they said although obesity rates in the UK fire service are not as high as in the US, the problem is getting worse. It said: "Obesity among firefighters can present a hindrance to operational effectiveness. "The proportion of firefighters who are either overweight or obese is lower in this UK sample than that found in US studies. "But it was higher than that found in the general population.