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Associations between body fat percentage and fitness among police officers: a statewide study.

Violanti JM; Ma CC; Fekedulegn D; Andrew ME; Gu JK; Hartley TA; Charles LE; Burchfiel CM
Saf Health Work 2017 Mar; 8(1):36-41
Background: Police work is generally sedentary though there may be situations that require physical endurance and strength, such as foot chases and arresting suspects. Factors such as excessive body fat can impede the officer's physical ability to deal with such occurrences. Our objective was to examine associations between officer's body fat percentage (BF%) and performance on a standardized fitness protocol. Methods: Data were obtained from fitness screening among 1,826 male and 115 female officers in a large U.S. police agency. The screening consisted of a 1.5-mile-run, push-ups, sit-ups, and sit-and reach test. Gender-specific body fat percentages were estimated from skinfold thickness measured using calipers. Linear regression models were used to examine unadjusted and adjusted mean scores of fitness tests across BF% tertiles. Results: The prevalence of overall fitness was 4.3 times greater in male officers and 3.6 times greater in female officers having the lowest BF% tertile compared with the highest tertile (30.3% vs 7.1% and 46.0% vs 12.8%, respectively). BF% was linearly and positively associated with the time of 1.5-mile-run (p<0.001), and linearly and inversely associated with the number of push-ups (p<0.001), sit-ups (p<0.001), and the distance of sit-and-reach (p<0.001) in men. Similar associations were observed in women with the exception of sit-and-reach (p=0.122). Associations were independent of age, race/ethnicity, rank, and duty station. Conclusion: Overall, BF% was inversely associated with fitness levels in male and female officers. Future longitudinal studies should be initiated to explore the potentially causal relationship between BF% and fitness in law enforcement officers.
Police officers; Law enforcement; Body weight; BMI; Body Mass Index; Obesity; Physical fitness; Physical capacity; Medical screening; Medical monitoring; Men; Women; Gender factors; Endurance tests; Performance tests; Performance capability; Physiological testing; Health standards; Author Keywords: body fat; fitness; gender; police
John M. Violanti, PhD. Department of Epidemiology & Environmental Health, 270 Farber Hall, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Buffalo, New York, 14214, USA
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
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Fiscal Year
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NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Public Safety
Source Name
Safety and Health at Work
Performing Organization
State University of New York at Buffalo
Page last reviewed: May 11, 2023
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division