Each of us is not just a fire fighter, we are also a father, mother, brother, sister, or friend who happens to have a demanding occupation. For this reason, we would acknowledge that there are many activities beyond those performed at work that we absolutely love to do. This is also true of our peers, some of whom are not currently active and in need of support, encouragement and/or motivation to take a first step. The IGNITE program is as much about preparing fire fighters for the job as it is preparing for life, both while working and long into retirement.
Think about the consequences of becoming injured while on duty. First, we may become a danger to ourselves, our colleagues, and the people we aim to protect. Secondly, our actions, or lack thereof, may prevent us from participating in many of the activities that we love to do outside of work. Imagine not being able to take a walk with your spouse, play with your kids or grand kids, or struggling to perform simple leisure activities around the house. Now image that this was the case for the next 30-40 years…
Exercise can and should be used to accomplish many things – prevent injury and disease, rehabilitate physical and mental health conditions, improve wellness and fitness, increase energy levels, improve sleep quality, mood and attitude, etc. We simply need to take the first step, literally. Walking is one of the best things that we can do for our physical and mental health!
Are there activities beyond those you have to perform at work that you simply enjoy? Perhaps going for a bike ride, fishing, hiking…there are an infinite number of activities that we perform on a regular basis that have become part of who we are. Consider how you would feel if you couldn’t perform those activities anymore because you got hurt. It would feel terrible. Now think back to your reasons to exercise – have you ever viewed it as a magic pill that allows you to do all the things you need or want to do? It can!
Ultimately, to make exercise matter – to ensure its impact extends beyond the exercise environment – we must consider the reasons why we exercise in the first place. For most of us, exercise is a means to improve our health, safety and performance at work, maintain a fitness level allows us to enjoy recreational activities such as golf or hiking, or support a healthy lifestyle long into retirement. Regardless of our motivation to be active, long-term adherence will influence the extent to which we see a direct benefit to our quality of life.
If your exercise program had an immediate impact on your safety, performance and/or productivity at work, but had little to no impact on your quality of life, would these benefits be enough to support long-term adherence? Probably not, particularly for those of us who enjoy being active at home with friends and family. An effective exercise program is one that has a positive impact on the things that truly matter.
For duty. For life.