Police Interview Newsletter - Physical Fitness Matters

Volume 1, Issue 8
August, 2002

As a psychologist on the New Officer Selection Boards, it always impresses me when an applicant demonstrates a clear commitment to his/her personal health and physical fitness.

Maybe it's weight lifting or a running program with trips to the gym 3 to 5 times per week. Or, possibly the applicant was a high school or college swimmer, track star, or basketball player who now chooses to eat right and stay in shape. Perhaps it's martial arts, modern dance, or an aerobics class. The possibilities are nearly endless.

When a physically fit and health conscious applicant appears before the Oral Interview Board, it catches my attention. I tend to think, Here is an individual who has learned the value of regular exercise and good self care. The Department needs self-disciplined men and women who are physically fit and striving for all manner of excellence. I wonder what other qualifications and competencies this applicant might possess.

Conversely, it is discouraging and off-putting to encounter an applicant whose lifestyle is lax and devoid of health and wellness concerns. Such applicants often view the police academy as providing the necessary structure, or incentive, to finally whip themselves into some kind of decent physical shape. Law Enforcement agencies generally recognize this lack of initiative and self- discipline for what it is-a lack of serious interest and commitment to a police career.

This issue of “Police Interview” is devoted (1) to encouraging the law enforcement applicant and veteran officer, to review his fitness goals and activities and (2) to acquaint the reader with some excellent physical fitness resource materials. In his article “Fitness For Law Enforcement” (http://www.jus.state.nc.us/NCJA), Jon Blum, North Carolina LEO Physical Fitness Director, notes that “Americans are more sedentary than ever before in history. In fact, less than 15% of the general population exercises regularly. The United States also has the highest rate of obesity in the world.”

Law enforcement officers, of course, are expected to possess above average levels of fitness, yet Blum reports that officers die of heart disease and develop serious ailments much younger than the general population. In fact, the average life span of a law enforcement officer is 59 years! Blum goes on to say that “...heart disease is the NUMBER 1 killer for law enforcement. More than 2,000 officers have heart attacks and die in the line of duty annually (compared to approximately 60 by a suspect's gun.” Why is this so? Blum points to lifestyle choices: poor diet, smoking, lack of exercise, and so on.




The Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research located in Dallas, Texas has been conducting (http://www.cooperinst.org/lawenf.asp) fitness research and developing fitness standards for law enforcement since 1976. Take time to visit their web site to read these two excellent papers:

1. “Common Questions about Physical Fitness Tests, Standards, and Programs in Law Enforcement” - offers scientific and legal information as well as new developments that will assist police agencies in establishing valid and defensible fitness tests and standards. 2. “The Cooper Institute's Physical Fitness Norms for Law Enforcement” - offers a physical fitness test battery and normative data for each of the five test components: Vertical Jump, One Minute Sit Up, 300 Meter Run, Maximum Push Up or Bench Press, and 1.5 Mile Run.




In my internet search for law enforcement physical fitness resources, I struck gold with the discovery of Jon Blum's excellent series of “Fitness & Wellness” Articles. As a LEO Physical Fitness Director as well as the Coordinator of the Specialized Tactical Training Center in North Carolina, Blum clearly knows his stuff.

Make time to read Jon's articles. Each is brief, highly informative, and remarkably practical. Please go to http://www.jus.state.nc.us/NCJA/w-jb-ffle.htm to view or print the following topics:

• Way Too Much Fat!
• Strength & Weight Training
• Acclimatization: Exercising in Hot Weather
• Strategies to Improve Cardiovascular Endurance
• Get Motivated!
• Stretching for Flexibility Fitness
• Cholesterol-The Silent Killer
• Physical Fitness & Survival Motor Skills
• Exercising in Cold Weather
• Health & Fitness Internet Links
• The Supervisor's Role
• It's All in The Shoes




I've spent some time sifting through Jon Blum's educational materials and suggested guidelines in his “Fitness & Wellness” Articles. I am including the following excerpts to wet your appetite and to jump start your motivation to select and commit to a fitness program that will suit your particular needs and hold your interest over time.

From Physical Fitness & Survival Motor Skills: “How important is physical fitness to officer survival? The correlation seems obvious to most. Officers are expected to arrest and detain combative subjects, pursue violators on foot, withstand long assignments in extreme conditions, and manage vast numbers of other situations that require muscular strength and endurance.”

“Survival gross motor skills are typically push and pull type movements that include strikes with arms, legs, and batons.”

“Physically fit (with emphasis on aerobic fitness) officers cope with dramatic increases in heart rates due to stress or physical exertion more efficiently. Heart rates stabilize and decrease faster which aids in the reacquisition of fine and complex motor skills much sooner than those officers who are not in good physical shape. Obviously, officers should incorporate cardiovascular training into exercise routines. Refer to the Strategies to Improve Cardiovascular Endurance article for ways to improve cardiovascular fitness levels. From Strength & Weight Training:

“What are the Health Benefits of Weight Training?”
• Increases bone density
• Increases strength and muscle mass
• Reduces body fat
• Modest reductions in blood pressure

“Why is Muscular Strength & Endurance Important?” “Adequate levels of strength and endurance are necessary for optimal daily performance. Officer activities such as pshing vehicles out of a roadway, lifting heavy objects, climbing over obstacles, and arresting physically combative offenders require strength and endurance.”

From Health & Fitness Internet Links:

“Human beings share a number of undeniable similarities. Our bodies typically respond to certain stimuli (stress, medications, food, exercise, etc.) in predictable fashion. However, what works for some in the fitness arena may not work for others. For example, have you ever scrupulously modeled a workout routine or diet that did wonders for your family, friends, colleagues and strangers, only to find out the program did absolutely nothing for you? Frustrated? Well, don't be. This level of frustration can lead to the end of your program.” “ The hard part is not giving up hope and keep trying.”

Jon Blum provides the following list of his favorite health and fitness web sites. He suggests that you visit the sites and decide which program will be the best one for you. Mr. Blum states that his personal favorite web site is www.getfit.com.



Phone: 804-353-6700
Fax: 804-358-7867
Email: MacHart@PoliceInterview.com

Malcolm M. Hart, Ph.D.
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Helping Law Enforcement Applicants Secure Jobs.



"Law Enforcement Coaching" is dedicated to helping law enforcement applicants achieve success in the job search process.

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