Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Kinesiology

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Occupational stressors predispose firefighters to poor cardiovascular functioning and health. Additionally, firefighters do not engage in sufficient physical activity on average to protect these components of their health. Research is needed to determine the efficacy of functional exercise training for firefighters to improve cardiovascular health. Further, the feasibility of unsupervised training among firefighters is not well tested but offers a method of training that is more easily implemented across diverse fire departments. The purpose of this dissertation was to evaluate the potential for functional training to improve cardiovascular health and firefighter-specific performance among firefighters.

The first study employed a supervised on-duty yoga intervention to improve cardiovascular health and function in firefighters. Participants completed an hour of a yoga curriculum on each on-duty day for eight weeks. We found that waist-to-hip ratio was improved and baseline associations of age and years in the fire service with frequency-domain heart rate reserve were no longer present after the intervention. Compliance to this intervention was satisfactory and matched previously conducted on-duty firefighter exercise interventions.

The second study piloted an on-duty unsupervised high-intensity functional exercise intervention to evaluate feasibility and efficacy among firefighters. This study incorporated the department’s shift “tour” schedule into the intervention schedule and introduced an occupation-specific performance test to assess air consumption. Intervention compliance was found to be similar to that of previous on-duty exercise interventions with firefighters. Average power was improved, however no improvements in air consumption behavior were found. These results suggested that an on-duty unsupervised exercise interventions with firefighters are feasible and can be efficacious.

This dissertation’s final study recruited participants from all shifts within a southeastern Louisiana fire department to investigate the ability of an on-duty unsupervised functional circuit-based exercise intervention to improve cardiovascular health and performance. We found no changes in cardiovascular disease risk factors despite a compliance of 72%. Salivary cortisol concentration and off-duty sleep quality worsened within the control group across the study period. Air consumption rate was unchanged following the intervention. The results of this study suggest the protective effect of on-duty functional exercise for firefighters.

Date

10-28-2022

Committee Chair

Johannsen, Neil M.

Available for download on Friday, October 26, 2029

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