Most obese occupations: First responders

Least obese workers are athletes, artists, economists, and scientists.

Delaware State troopers stay in shape with regular mandatory health checks and the voluntary DelaWELL rewards program, a comprehensive wellness, conditioning, and disease-management program open to all benefit-eligible state employees.
Delaware State troopers stay in shape with regular mandatory health checks and the voluntary DelaWELL rewards program, a comprehensive wellness, conditioning, and disease-management program open to all benefit-eligible state employees.

By Kathy Canavan

Police officers are among the most obese workers in the U.S. Almost 41 percent are out of shape.

It’s not the donuts. It’s the stress and the shift work, according to a study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

Occupations most likely to have a McProblem are police, firefighters, 911 operators, and rescue workers. They share three stressors — rotating shifts, long periods of inaction, and hostile work environments.

By paying attention to the stressors, the Delaware State Police have helped troopers stay well enough to pass standardized physical fitness tests twice each year.

Capt. John Campanella, director of human resources for the state police, said he knows from experience how hard it is to avoid the foods your body wants when you work odd shifts. He said the division changed up its shifts about 15 years ago to give troopers more weekdays off and every other weekend off for better work-life balance.

Still, police work must be done around the clock, so the shifts are long and they rotate. “A 12-hour shift is a little bit more stressful for the officer. It means that they are exposed to that high-stress environment for a longer shift,” Campanella said. “And every two weeks they are shifting from day work to night work. Once you go against the natural body rhythms, each individual has to manage that. What I hear from our older troopers is, the older you get, the harder it gets.”

A fatigue-management policy stipulates troopers must have ample time off every 24 hours, so, if they are on a SWAT callout all night, they must get proper rest before they return to regular duty. Campanella said that protects the trooper and the public.

He said troopers must meet age-and-gender-adjusted fitness goals twice each year — running and performing pushups and situps. They must pass or they will eventually lose their jobs, but he said the program is not punitive.

“It is not designed to be a discipline area,” Campanella said. “Our intent there is the well-being of our troopers. The goal is to keep troopers healthy and well.”

Troopers receive a monthly health newsletter, and they are encouraged to join DelaWELL, a voluntary program for all benefits-eligible state employees that offers prizes and incentives for employees who exercise and eat well.

Campanella has heard all the donut jokes. “There are certain things that are iconic and stick, and the police officer and the donut is one,” he said. “It should be a reminder to police officers, especially those who are carrying extra weight. Hopefully, they will see it as a reminder that they do not want to be that person, that overweight police officer.”

If you’re wondering, the next heaviest workers are clergy, counselors, health care assistants, and public administrators.

The least obese workers are artists, athletes, entertainers, scientists, economists, and health care providers.

If you pull night or rotating shifts,

you are more likely to be obese that your counterpart with a day job.

Temp workers are more likely to be out of shape than their fully employed co-workers.

Job insecurity, long workweeks, and hostile work environments also may drive workers to drink or eat. ♦

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