Study: Yoga sessions help firefighters unwind
For New York firefighters, reducing stress and risk of injury sounds like a great idea, even if the idea means trying something new. Traditionally, most wouldn’t think the two mix, but researchers wondered if firefighters would benefit from the ancient practice.
The study “Functional fitness improvements after a worksite-based yoga initiative” involved over 100 firefighters and examined functional fitness, flexibility and perceived stress.
Yoga classes were conducted on-shift and in the fire stations over a period of 6 weeks. The classes included pranayama (breathing), asana (postures), and savasana (relaxation). Most had no experience with yoga and considered themselves physically active outside work.
Most the firefighters said they felt more flexible after six weeks of yoga training and found “significant improvements in the Functional Movement Screen.”
The Functional Movement Screen is a way to test for functional fitness or quality of movement. There is research with firefighters that shows those that score poor on the screen are more likely to get injured on the job.
So anything that improves quality of movement would be important to not only firefighters but any job involving physically activity. Another important finding was that the, “participants also reported favorable perceptions of yoga: feeling more focused and less musculoskeletal pain.”
Getting people to enjoy exercise is arguably the most important part of the fitness puzzle, especially getting people to step out of their comfort zone and try new methods of exercises that they might need.
From my experience in the gym, most males — and firefighters are predominantly males — tend to stick to weight lifting with little to no stretching. Most would also consider being a firefighter a high stress job, and, like many jobs that require repeated movements — like always grabbing and carrying the ladder on the same side — the job is inherently going to lead to asymmetries or a “strong and weak” side of the body. This reduces posture and may lead to pain, injury and/or hinder performance.
The yoga classes in this study involved, pranayama (breathing), asana (postures), and savasana (relaxation); essentially hitting all the weak links a firefighter may have. If you are stressed, tight and want to move better, try a yoga class — the more you need it, the more you might like it.
Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach who trains at Sierra Athletic Club and a training center instructor at Barton Memorial Hospital.