19225833_sA lack of physical health creates occupational hazards for Illinois law enforcement officers. Studies show that those who are overweight are more likely to experience work injuries. Engaging in a total fitness and wellness program has proven effective for reducing injuries while improving job performance, overall health, and longevity after retirement. In spite of this evidence, the average officer’s level of fitness is lower than that of the average U.S. civilian.

Fitness is necessary for apprehending offenders

In the line of duty, members of law enforcement face many threats that civilians typically never encounter. They interact with angry, upset or uncooperative individuals on an almost daily basis, which often leads to situations that require physical exertion. They may be required to run, climb, jump, lift or drag when dealing with rescue operations or in apprehending an offender, and they must also be prepared for the use of force. More than 3 out of 4 arrests involve a significant amount of resistance by suspects, and subduing them typically lasts between 30 seconds and two minutes. Officers require strength, endurance, flexibility, and other physical factors in order to perform successfully in this type of situation.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has gathered data in an attempt to reduce work-related accidents, injuries and fatalities. By interviewing offenders, the FBI has learned that victims are evaluated before an attack. Officials are less likely to be perceived as targets if they appear fit and professional. An individual who is perceived as weak has a greater risk of attack. In another study, the FBI analyzed 40 cases where officers were assaulted. Many attributed their survival in these situations to their level of fitness. Those who were at a healthy weight also recovered from injuries significantly faster than the individuals who were obese or overweight.

Wellness programs reduce health-related issues

Law enforcement causes a high level of stress because of the long hours and difficult or dangerous situations, and this creates emotional, mental and physical hazards. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce work-related tension and aid officers in dealing with the pressures in their line of work.

Seven agencies in North Carolina offered their employees a voluntary fitness plan to develop a model for similar programs for other departments. According to the data, the agencies had a 25 percent increase in productivity from several factors, including lower rates of absenteeism, a smaller number of accidents, and fewer workers’ compensationclaims. This study and others demonstrate the benefits of building law enforcement health and wellness programs.

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