When you’re a police officer, your health and wellness is crucial. Not only does good officer wellness reduce on-the-job injuries and make you better able to respond to calls and perform your duties, it can affect all aspects of your life throughout your entire career and even after you retire from duty.
According to studies by John Violanti, a police veteran and research professor at the University at Buffalo, police officers have a much higher risk than the general population for a number of long-term physical and mental health issues.
That higher risk is due to a number of factors that are common in law enforcement careers, including:
- Sitting in a car for hours, which takes a toll on the body, especially the lower back, and can lead to weight gain, heart disease, weakened muscles, and chronic pain.
- Prolonged psychological stress, which studies have linked to obesity, sleeplessness, mood disorders, and chronic health problems.
- Shift work outside the normal work hours, which can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to a variety of problems, from depression and a suppressed immune system to heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.
- Accumulated damage from repeated small, non-traumatic injuries, which can eventually become debilitating and can lead to chronic pain conditions.
- Poor eating habits, which can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
One benefit of a career in law enforcement is the option to retire at a relatively young age, but many officers see their health deteriorate over the course of their career and aren't able to enjoy retirement as much as they could if they had maintained their health and wellness.
The good news is that it’s relatively easy to reverse these risk factors with awareness and exercise, and many police departments are realizing that a wellness program for officers not only helps the force by making officers happier, healthier, and better able to do their jobs, it reduces the department’s costs due to absenteeism and health issues.
An officer wellness program with annual physical checkup and incentives for things that help officers maintain good emotional, physical, and mental health can lead to big improvements in officer performance and quality of life.
Even if your department doesn’t offer a formal wellness program, you can take charge of your own health with better eating habits and regular exercise, which not only improves your physical fitness, but can also reduce stress, improve your mood, encourage weight loss, increase your energy levels, and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Even small daily exercise routines can make a big difference, so start today! For ideas on how to get started, see our blog post What to Get Fit? Start with Small Changes and Concrete Goals.
If you're interested in starting a department wellness program, contact CertifyFit.