By Dr. Kristen Ouellette
Responses to our Tactical Culture of Fitness Survey continued to trickle in over the past couple weeks and in all, we received over 200 responses. (military = 68, law enforcement = 73 and fire rescue = 59).
Survey Result Take-Aways:
- 95% of military, 65% of law enforcement and 45% of fire rescue have mandatory fitness testing.
- When fitness testing is required 65% of respondents said that physical fitness was at least “somewhat important” within their unit. When there is no fitness testing, only 31% said that physical fitness was at least “somewhat important”.
- Nearly 100% of respondents who said they do not have a fitness test think one should be instituted.
- 15% of military, 25% of fire and 35% of law respondents said that fitness was not important in their respective units.
- Majority (80-90%) of respondents have a place available to train.
- Military and fire are similar in that 80-90% of athletes are allowed to train on duty, but only 60% of law enforcement athletes are allowed to train on duty.
- 70-85% of military and fire train on duty, while 55% of law enforcement train on duty. This means that many, but not all people are taking advantage of their ability to train on duty.
- 64% of military and fire are encouraged to train on duty, while only 35% of law enforcement receive encouragement.
- When asked if they felt the majority (at least 75%) of their unit was fit for duty, 31% of military, 22% of law enforcement and 17% of fire rescue said yes.
- 25% of military and 35% of law and fire self-report that they are overweight, although 85-90% also report that they are fit for duty.
These results strongly suggest that when fitness is institutionalized, either via fitness testing or leadership driven training, testing or expectations, this naturally increases the perceived importance of fitness at the unit level.
If at the same time, training can take place on duty, it’s possible to get high compliance as we are seeing with our respondents (80-90% of military and fire were allowed and 70-85% are training). A lower percentage of law enforcement are allowed to train on duty, however, we cannot identify why at this time. Presumably, officers are patrolling out of the station, or are in the station handling tasks that cannot be abandoned for training. Or, frankly, the command does not feel fitness is important enough to make on-duty time available for training.
Perhaps correspondingly, law enforcement had the highest percentage of respondents who said that fitness was not important in their unit (35%). While only 55% of LE officers are allowed to train on duty, 80% have a place to train. This suggests that they are able to train before or after their shift, but are not doing it on their own.
Military and fire rescue athletes are different in that their shifts/deployments are longer and blend into regular life. Therefore, the disparity may exist because military and fire rescue athletes are around their unit for longer periods of time and are more influenced by the culture around them.
Low percentages of all respondents felt that the majority of their unit (at least 75%) were fit for duty.
In the near future we hope to conduct a more thorough, on-site, study at a small city fire department analyzing it’s fitness culture. Data collection will include a survey, similar to this one, in-person interviews, and in-person observation.
Questions we have going forward will be addressed in the second iteration of our questionnaire. If you would like to us to evaluate the fitness culture of your unit, email Rob Shaul for arrangements at firstname.lastname@example.org .