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Morgantown firefighters participate in exercise physiology pilot program

For the past few weeks, the Morgantown Fire Department has been conducting various trainings throughout the city with the goal of providing firefighters with practical skill training and hands-on experience.

On Thursday afternoon, MFD firefighters at the department’s North Side Station had the opportunity to switch gears from tactical training where they are working toward saving the lives of others, to physical training that will ensure their own good health. 

The training was offered as part of a small pilot program through WVU Exercise Physiology department.

Brian Leary, Assistant Professor of Exercise Physiology at WVU said the program is an exercise or wellness intervention that is grant funded through the nonprofit organization Active Southern West Virginia which promotes physical activity programs in the state.

By working with MFD, Leary and a few student researchers are working to “try to see what we can do from an exercise point of view, and from an educational point of view, about their health and wellness throughout both their job and their overall well being,” he said.

“I think one of the overlooked things when it comes to our firefighters is we know that their jobs are demanding, but we sometimes don’t realize how demanding it is,” Leary said.  “One of the biggest causes of death in the line of duty is actually resulting from cardiovascular disease or a heart attack or stroke while on duty.”   

According to Leary, a lot of these kinds of deaths can be prevented with simple exercise programs designed to improve overall health so they are less likely to be injured while they are at work.

The firefighters participating in Thursday’s workout were given exercises involving a combination of physical skills including basic resistance training using dumbbell and barbell type exercises, basic conditioning like running, and a circuit specific to the firefighters involving sledgehammers, fire hoses, and really working on some of the core stability training that they need to effectively do their job.

“We know that firefighters do their jobs really well, so from my perspective it’s just making sure they are healthy so they can do their job,” Leary said.

In addition to the Morgantown Fire Department, Leary said the pilot program is also working with members of WVU’s Army ROTC and Air Force ROTC.

Because of the physical demands involved with military and first responder careers like firefighting, Leary said they are encouraging exercise physiology students to work with these populations.