4 fitness habits for correctional officers to prevent, combat obesity

Fully adopting the fitness lifestyle mentality takes time, but after a couple of weeks of implementing a dedicated routine, it becomes habit


It is well known that there is an obesity epidemic in America. According to the National Institute of Health, more than one-third of adults are obese. But, with regard to obesity and law enforcement, it’s a serious issue that plagues the profession due to long hours, working variable shifts and high stress. There are some easy steps that every CO can take to improve their physical health – from nutrition to activity.  It starts by self-reflection, acceptance and dedication to making lifestyle changes that will benefit the officer’s overall health.  Here are four fitness habits that all COs can use get started improve their fitness starting today. Before starting any new workout program, a physical exam from a medical doctor is highly encouraged.

1. Alternating workout types

It is imperative that COs workout regularly each week, especially given the demands of the job. While there are several types of workouts, the fundamental rule is that fitness should include a balance of two types of workouts: cardio and resistance. The workouts must vary because repetitive training often results in overuse injuries and possible boredom. Beginners, or individuals who have not worked out in the last 30 days, should start slow to build up physical endurance. Intermediate and advanced fitness enthusiasts need to also add variety in their workouts to encourage new muscle growth, prevent overuse injuries and to prevent burnout.

2.Cardio workouts

Cardio is meant to get your heart rate elevated and is not limited to one type of exercise. The CDC recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of cardio per week for all adults. This should be planned over several days throughout each week and the exercises should vary either per workout, per week or per month. Performing different cardio exercises often will prevent overuse injuries and prevent the body from adapting too much to a specific type of workout. The idea is to keep your body guessing to encourage muscle growth, maximize calorie burn and to challenge yourself physically. Cardio workouts include jumping rope (have you ever seen boxer skip – it’s awesome), cycling, kettlebell, running, jumping jacks (or other plyometrics), rowing and elliptical. All COs need to include cardio in their workouts. Variety is the key to making a lifestyle change.

3.Resistance training

Cardio and resistance training are required in a balanced fitness program. (Photo/Pixabay)
Cardio and resistance training are required in a balanced fitness program. (Photo/Pixabay)

All COs need to lift weights or engage is some type of resistance training. On average, it is estimated that up 5 percent of muscle is lost every decade after the age of 30. Because of this medical fact, it is necessary to make resistance training part of your workout routine. A balanced resistance training program will target several muscle groups in the lower body, the core and upper body. Examples of resistance training exercises include bench press, push-ups, rows, pull-ups, bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder presses, lunges, squats, deadlifts and calf raises. Even yoga is a form of resistance training. This is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a good starting point. One of my favorite and often visited websites has a fairly comprehensive exercise database.

4.Athletic gear

Workouts require different types of athletic gear. For example, running requires running shoes and skipping (jump rope) should be done in cross-trainers and every cyclist must wear a helmet. Compression socks or sleeves help prevent stress fractures and a yoga mat will help prevent a disastrous fall and keep you centered. Another piece of equipment that all COs should consider is the Fitbit or other fitness tracking device. Fitness trackers encourage you to move and they hold you accountable. While they are not 100 percent accurate, they are an excellent tool for COs to use when making lifestyle changes and tracking daily fitness goals.

Fitness is a lifestyle change for many COs. It takes time to adopt the fitness lifestyle mentality, but after a couple of weeks of implementing a dedicated routine, it becomes habit.

Prior to joining CorrectionsOne, I was a Certified Personal Trainer through the American Council on Exercise. As an avid and self-declared fitness-junkie, I wanted to learn everything I needed to physiologically for my own long term, self-care.

All COs need to make fitness a part of their routine and fight the obesity epidemic.  A CO’s level of fitness can mean the difference between life and death on any given day.

Do you have any fitness tips? Share them below.

About the author

Heather is the Senior Editor of CorrectionsOne and PoliceOne. She began working with law enforcement and public safety over 15 years ago. She understands that although agencies have similar operations and missions, every agency is unique when it comes to their standard operating procedures, business requirements and communities they serve.

In her spare time, she volunteers as Executive Director at the International Public Safety Association. Prior to joining Praetorian Digital, Heather worked on projects supporting several state and federal agencies. She also spent a few years working at the IACP. Heather earned her Master's degree from Arizona State University and her Bachelor's at Indiana University, both in Criminology. Heather currently calls Arizona home.

Ask questions or submit article ideas to Heather by contacting her here.

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