Researchers say the results show that instruction on healthy lifestyle habits in academies could help improve physical fitness and the overall health of firefighters.
A recent study by scientists from Harvard University’s TH Chan School of Public Health found that adherence to the MEDI-Lifestyle significantly reduced the risk of hypertension and improved aerobic capacity in America’s young firefighters.See Also: Health News
The study, which was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, suggested that introducing healthy lifestyle habits, including the Mediterranean diet, in fire training academies could help boost the benefits of firefighter’s physical training and improve their cardiovascular health.
Our results suggest that fire academy interventions designed to increase healthy lifestyle habits overall could add additional benefits to the physical fitness training traditionally provided in academy settings.
U.S. firefighters have been identified as being at high risk of cardiovascular disease and sudden cardiac death due to the strenuous nature of their work coupled with conventional risk factors, including obesity and high blood pressure.
The researchers believe that if this study was followed up with further research it could lead to the Mediterranean diet and other lifestyle changes being promoted as a beneficial new approach to better health in firefighting academies.
The study focused on almost 100 new recruits from two different firefighting training centers. The volunteers, who were mostly males with an average age of 25.6 years, were required to complete MEDI-Lifestyle questionnaires in order to assess their lifestyles.
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Participants answered questions about their weight, sleep patterns, adherence to a Mediterranean diet, smoking habits, physical activity and number of hours spent watching television.
A point was awarded for each healthy characteristic and a score of between five and seven was considered to be good. Participants with the least healthy lifestyles achieved scores of between zero and two.
Higher scores were found to be linked to increased physical fitness and less body fat. It was also discovered that higher scoring recruits were less prone to hypertension and for every extra point scored the risk of hypertension fell by 36 percent.
A high MEDI-Lifestyle score also increased aerobic capacity. Every extra point scored was noted to double aerobic capacity. High levels of physical activity and plenty of sleep were also noted as contributing factors to better aerobic capacity.
“Our results suggest that fire academy interventions designed to increase healthy lifestyle habits overall could add additional benefits to the physical fitness training traditionally provided in academy settings,” co-author Stefanos N Kales told News Wise.
Kales co-authored an earlier study in 2014, which concluded that a Mediterranean-style diet was beneficial for reducing the risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome in participating firefighters.
However, this was the first study to focus on the beneficial effects of a modified Mediterranean-style diet in young U.S. firefighters. Previous studies had concentrated on older people, participants with pre-existing health conditions and Mediterranean populations.
This initial study first sparked the idea that educating American firefighters on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and encouraging them to improve their dietary habits could be an effective way to improve their overall health and reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.
The 2014 study concluded that firefighters who followed the modified Mediterranean-style diet were less prone to be obese, had lower body fat and were more physically fit. Obese firefighters and those whose diets were rich in fast foods and sugary beverages scored lower than firefighters with healthy eating habits and those of normal weight.
Participants who adhered to the modified Mediterranean-style diet also reported lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, which suggested a lower risk to heart disease and a 35 percent reduced risk of metabolic syndrome compared to low scoring participants.