Obesity Is a Sizable Problem for Police Officersby Sarah Takushi
Apr. 11, 2014
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This month a study published in Industrial Health reaffirmed the assertion that obesity is a sizable problem for American police officers. However, contrary to the widely disseminated image of the lazing doughnut-loving policeman, obesity is now considered to be a multi-factorial occupational risk of being a law enforcement agent. Elevated levels of obesity in police officers not only pose a sizable problem for an individual officer’s health, but also to issues of law enforcement as a whole.
In their day-to-day work, police officers may be called upon to perform a variety of physical challenges that may range from standing for extended periods of time to violent confrontations. One study of police agencies across the country identified the essential physical skills of a law enforcement officer to be running, climbing, jumping, lifting/carrying, pushing, dragging, and using force.
Despite the necessary physical demands of the job, many police officers are less capable of performing these duties than civilians. One study conducted from 1983 to 1993 found that the average police officer was less in-shape than the average American citizen. Police officers consistently scored lower in tests of aerobic fitness, body fat, and abdominal strength.
More recently, another study from 2011 reported that 40.5 percent of American police officers are obese. This level is noticeably higher than the reported national averages, which suggest that 35.5 percent of adult men and 35.8 percent of adult women are obese. Police officers are also noted to be at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, and suicide.