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How to buy EMS fitness and health products

Here are the top ten things to consider when purchasing products and services to support a workplace health and fitness initiative

EMS professionals reflect the health and wellness of the communities we serve. Because of the costs associated with insurance premiums, sick days, and workers' compensation, many EMS agencies purchase health and wellness products and services for their personnel. A focus on prevention and maintenance can help reduce the costs associated with injury and absence.

Here are the top ten things to consider when purchasing products and services to support a workplace health and fitness initiative:

1. Initiate an initial and ongoing screening program for all personnel. According to certified athletic trainer and paramedic Bryan Fass, you should "select a program that will test cardiovascular fitness, anaerobic fitness, agility, strength, and flexibility."

2. Select vendors that understand or are willing to learn the workplace tasks of EMS professionals when designing pre-employment screenings.

3. Check on the availability of services by donation or contract from local hospitals, health clubs, and the YMCA, but more importantly seek to build a long-term relationship with an athletic trainer or physical therapist that has been certified by the National Association of Sports Medicine.

4. If you use a personal trainer, select one that has passed an accredited program from NASM, NATA, NSCA, or ACSM. Next, make sure the trainer understands the EMS professional’s job.

5. Offer a balance of programs that address fitness, nutrition, tobacco cessation, and other important wellness practices like use of seatbelts, helmets, and elimination of distractions while driving.

6. Involve field personnel by starting and supporting a workplace fitness club. Support the fitness club with workout wear, use of company vehicles for group travel to events, and subsiding event entry fees.

7. Create and support opportunities for physical fitness in the workplace. Bryan Fass recommends that EMS agencies not purchase machines that "force users into specific movements that exacerbate poor posture and worsen injury. Instead, equip a workout area with a light dumbbell rack, stability balls, resistance bands, and an adjustable bench. This is all that is needed for a variety of exercises that will bolster strength and balance while limiting the risk of injury."

8. If you find most of your time posted away from a station, there are many exercises that can be completed with your own body weight or a resistance band. Don’t forget that you can easily add some fun exercises with a Frisbee, throwing a football, tossing a tennis ball, or using an agility ball.

9. Don't stick with what has always been done. Many exercises, like abdominal crunches carry with them a greater risk than benefit. Learn and practice fitness techniques that challenge the body in the ways it really needs to function. Bench press strength, while useful for bragging, does not replicate any task an EMS professional uses in the workplace.

10. If an exercise or machine looks like a gimmick for rapid fitness or strength, it almost always is. Fitness is a habit that requires goals and commitment, not quick fixes.

Thanks to Bryan Fass for his assistance with this article. Bryan is a regular contributor to EMS1.com. He is the author of "Fit Responder," a comprehensive wellness plan for the first responder and the Fit Responder blog.

What products does your agency use to support its health and wellness efforts? Any other suggestions? Anything we missed in the list above? Leave a comment below or email products@ems1.com with your feedback.


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