Circuit training impact on volunteer firefighters’ cardiovascular health

Posted: Sept. 6, 2018

There are estimates that only about 20 percent of volunteer firefighters meet the VO2 max fitness level recommended by NFPA 1582. So how might volunteer firefighters best improve their cardiovascular fitness? A study1 published this year explored how circuit training may help.

circuit training

There are over 800,000 volunteer firefighters in the United States that make up 70 percent of all firefighters. Volunteer firefighters may have long periods with little physical activity, interrupted by response calls that place very high demands on their cardiovascular fitness.

There’s no clear agreement on whether strength, aerobic or some combination of training is most beneficial to reducing cardiovascular risk. A 2012 study (abstract) did suggest that combination training was better for cardiovascular health than aerobic or strength training, but accurate measurements of improved cardiovascular health from exercise have until now not been made.

The circuit training program study

The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of a four-week circuit training program on cardiovascular risk factors between a group of volunteer firefighters and a group of non-firefighters.

This was designed to be a functional circuit that fire companies could set up the stations in their house and some of them did. We even had one fire company set up the six circuit stations in their banquet hall and move the stations around when the hall was rented.

— Study author

Participants did circuit training three times per week over the course of four weeks. Each training session involved six stations that they completed a total of three times per workout. The six stations included:

Research takeaways


Exercise interventions aimed at improving health and well-being of firefighters will prove valuable because cardiac-related line-of-duty deaths could potentially be avoided.


Learn more about this research

This research article is available through our library by contacting netclrc@fema.dhs.gov.

Further reading

Testing for metabolic syndrome in firefighters

1Getty, A., Wisdo, T., Chavis, L., Derella, C., McLaughlin, K., Perez, A., DiCiurcio, W., Corbin, M., Feairheller, D. (2018). Effects of circuit exercise training on vascular health and blood pressure. Preventative Medicine Reports, 10 (6), 106-112.

This summary is for informational purposes only. More +
As such, the content does not reflect any official positions, policies, or guidelines on behalf of the sender, the U.S. Fire Administration, FEMA, DHS, nor any other federal agencies, departments or contracting entities. Similarly, this summary does not represent in any manner an official endorsement or relationship to any private or public companies, organizations/associations, or any authors or individuals cited or websites associated within the article.

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