Tuesday, October 31, 2023

JUST 22 Minutes of Walking Can Offset Health Risks of All-Day Sitting BY Lisa O'Mary

Oct. 25, 2023 – To combat the health risks of sitting at a desk all day or indulging in an all-day Netflix binge, head out for a brisk 22-minute walk.

New research shows that people who do at least 22 minutes of physical activity daily reduce their risk of early death. The findings were published Tuesday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Most people in Western countries spend between 9 and 10 hours being sedentary when they're not sleeping, most of which occurs during a person’s workday, the researchers noted. Sedentary time is linked to early death, while it is well-established that physical activity has wide-ranging health benefits. This latest study sought to examine just how much sedentary time it takes to trigger the risk of early death, and just how much physical activity it takes to reduce that risk. The researchers examined physical activity level that is, at a minimum, equal to a brisk walk or gardening.

For the analysis, the researchers in Norway combined data from four previous studies of 12,000 people who were age 50 or older who wore hip-mounted fitness trackers to measure their active and sedentary time. Data was excluded from midnight to 6 a.m. when people usually sleep.

The analysis showed that having more than 12 daily sedentary hours was linked to a 38% higher risk of early death only among people who had less than 22 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity.

There was no cutoff for the amount of sedentary time that triggers health risks, but any increase in moderate physical activity translated to a reduced risk of early death. The study also showed that increasing physical activity was more protective than reducing sedentary time.

The results are similar to the CDC’s physical activity recommendation for adults, which advises 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity like walking. Divided among 7 days, 150 minutes in a week equals just over 21 minutes daily. The CDC also says adults should do muscle strengthening activities at least two times per week for the major muscle groups, which are the legs, hips, back, belly, chest, shoulders, and arms.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

The Ethos, Short History and Relevance of the Firefighter Challenge®

The Firefighter Challenge® is a content-valid physical ability test based upon the empirical research of Dr. Paul O. Davis, and his team of Exercise Scientists and a Cardiologist in the 1970s at the University of Maryland, Human Performance Laboratory, School of Public Health, Department of Kinesiology, in cooperation with the Washington, DC, Council of Governments Fire Training Officers subcommittee and the participation of five career firefighting jurisdictions who provided 100 veteran firefighters as test subjects. The results of the study were published in the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)*.

[[*] Davis, Paul O., Charles O. Dotson, and D. Laine Santa Maria. “Relationship Between Simulated Firefighting Tasks and Physical Performance Measures.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 65-71, 1982.}

When I joined the local Montgomery County Fire Department in 1966, there wasn’t the body of knowledge like the current compendium of occupational or sports physiology. Job-relatedness was a term on the horizon.

In the United States, the federal government got involved in the passage of Employment Opportunity Laws. Physical ability tests (PATs) were seen by some as artificial barriers to employment of otherwise qualified people, based on the misguided notion that anybody could do any job if they just tried harder. Or, if you work with any candidate long enough, they could “do the job.”

We now have protections for age, sex, disabilities, national origin, religion, and race. In the US, if you can’t get a job because you can’t pass the selection criteria based upon your natural abilities, then try legal fiat: i.e., you file suit in federal or local court, claiming “discrimination.”

While well-intentioned, these laws launched my career, as Science is the basis for the BFOQ (bona fide occupational qualification) exception: i.e., the actual essential functional requirements of the job. Gravity is the great equalizer, exerting a downward force of 32ft per second squared the World around. And water weighs 8.3 pounds per gallon for everyone. So, you don’t get a pass because of your age or sex. The patient or victim must be moved. And people keep getting heavier.ª

[[ª] Bryan Stierman, M.D., M.P.H.; Joseph Afful, M.S.; Margaret D. Carroll, M.S.P.H.; Te-Ching Chen, Ph.D.; Orlando Davy, M.P.H.; Steven Fink, M.A.; Cheryl D. Fryar, M.S.P.H.; Qiuping Gu, Ph.D.; Craig M. Hales, M.D., M.P.H.; Jeffery P. Hughes, M.P.H.; Yechiam Ostchega, Ph.D., R.N.; Renee J. Storandt, M.T.(A.S.C.P.), M.S.P.H.; and Lara J. Akinbami, M.D. National Health Statistics Reports: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics.]

Your basic “go to work uniform” or “business suit” imposes a severe metabolic cost and depending upon your physical size and the tools of the trade you may already be handicapped with 50 to 100 pounds of gear (22-45kg) that must be carried up flights of stairs, and then used once you’ve climbed to your objective.

We have measured with scientific certainty what the job requires. My job as a faculty member in the Kinesiology Department of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland, funded by a federal grant from the US Fire Administration, delved into the morass of essential functions and quantified the physiological human demands of the job. I’ve been retained in ≈72 legal actions where medical and physical standards or issues brought the warring parties into the courtroom.

When in 1975, 100 randomly selected Greater Washington, DC area firefighters visited our Human Performance Laboratory, we met the scientific rigor to conduct a study published in the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) peer-reviewed journal. But the real validation was in the hearts and minds of firefighters everywhere, who gave us two thumbs up because the Challenge resonates in the hearts and minds of firefighters around the globe because the physical demands are identical to what they do on the job.

In the late 1970s and Early 1900’s we were delivering a 40-hour certification course for fire department Fitness Coordinators (CFCs) all over the US. We had introduced into the curriculum the “Combat Test” when the host department had the resources. The course is described thusly:

The Challenge Course

Wearing NFPA 1971-compliant Personal Protective Ensemble (PPE) of helmet, turnout coat and trousers, boots, gloves and breathing compressed air from a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) The five-linked tasks, in order are:

1. Climb a five-story tower to the top deck (41 feet, 12.5m from the ground) with a standard High-rise bundle of attack hose (32 pounds, 15.5 kg); at the top of the tower place the high-rise bundle in the box,

2. Then hoist the 42-pound (19kg) LDH donut roll up and over the railing and place it in the box. Descend the tower touching every step,

3. Walk 20’ (≈6m) to the Keiser Forcible Entry simulator and drive the ≈160lb (72.5kg) beam a distance of 5 feet (1.5m), by striking the trailing end with the Trusty Cook shot mallet. Place the hammer on the mat and move to...

4. Negotiate the delineators, 140’ (42.7m), to the far end of the course; Pick up the 1.5” (mm) smooth bore, ballcock nozzle and advance the charged 1.75” attack line a distance of 75’ (m), go through the saloon doors, open the nozzle, striking the target and place the nozzle on the pad.

5. Walk 20’ to the 170lb (≈79kg) (NascoHealthcare Rescue Randy® mannequin, lift the head and shoulders, causing the dummy to flex at the waist, then keeping the vertebral column stabilized, lift and drag the dummy a distance of ≈100ft (47.2m), crossing the finish line, thereby stopping the timing system.

While there may be some “knockoffs” of the only real Firefighter Challenge, what differentiates us is we have an audit trail back to the laboratory. There is no form of climbing under load, hoisting with a gloved hand, simulating forcible entry with a hand tool, advancing a charged hose line, opening a nozzle with control and using proper biomechanics to move a simulated adult victim that is not a derivative of my original Intellectual Property (IP).

This hyperlink: https://vimeo.com/205602154, created and produced by Jordan Caskey of the Spokane NBC affiliate SWX-TV from the Silverwood ID Challenge, is one of the better descriptions of the course.

It’s easy to copy when you can go to a website and steal the Intellectual Property (IP) of the original scientist. The value of the Challenge is its objectivity because of the precision and attention given to the course. Times are comparable to the World around because of the attention to detail. That’s the basis for sport. We’re all playing on the same field with the same set of conditions.

We continue to cross-validate the Challenge Course with incumbent firefighters who show a post-participation concordance of agreement coefficient with Real Life with greater than 90% agreement.

Think of a run through the course as a “check ride.” It instantly gives you feedback about where you are on the gut check. Are you “Good to Go?” Firefighting is about turning over lactate because everything is heavy, and you’re racing against the clock. Whether it’s a patient who stopped breathing or the fire that doubles in size every 45 seconds, Time is your enemy,

When a firefighter steps out on the course, bunkered up and breathing from their SCBA, it’s “Go Time.” Sometimes, you are in front of hundreds or thousands of your peers or the adoring public. Yes, the pressure is on. But it can be just like another day on the job. There’s no better platform than the Firefighter Challenge to demonstrate to our stakeholders and yourself why the job exists, the objects of our preparedness, training, and focus that you have what it takes. Firefighters tend to be competitive, and the Challenge is the perfect outlet and the proof of the pudding. It’s where training is validated over a course that spans the full range of motion, energy metabolism and oxygen-lactate kinetics.

Every firefighter will have what is about as close as you can get to the real world to analyze every aspect of the climbing, hauling, lifting, slamming, and hoisting against the template in their mind in the after-action analysis of their run. And that is how we improve; “next time, better time.”

In our infancy, circa 1990, Combat, as used in fire station lingo differentiated “Line” guys from “Staff” as in upper management. There’s always been a certain pecking order between the guys who put the wet stuff on the “hot stuff” and the “bean counters” at headquarters.

Ergo the title “Combat’. We don’t fight people, we’re “firefighters” adding Combat is sort of redundant. So, we’ve moved on and dropped the title “Combat” in a lot of cases so as not to confuse the public or infer a likeness to the military’s use of the term.

The immediate response from veteran firefighters across the country told us we had hit the “sweat spot” in fitness testing. As one Fitness Coordinator told me in a phone call, “guys were coming to the academy to run the course on their day off. That never happened when the standard push-ups or 1.5mile run was a requirement.”

Our first Challenge was back to the University of Maryland’s Fire and Rescue Institute in May 1991. CBS’s local affiliate WUSA covered the event and DuPont’s aramid fibers division that makes Kevlar and Nomex jumped on board as Title Sponsor and the first US Championship was held coincidental with the annual meeting of the International Association of Fire Chiefs in Anaheim, California.

Now spanning the globe affiliate licensees hold competitions in New Zealand, Slovenia, Berlin, and Ukraine.

Our Watchword is “Safety First Always”. These are “Industrial Athletes” in the same sense as organized sports, they make their living using their fitness-related skills. Injury prevention is always a consideration. One of the classic occupational medicine studies has demonstrated a quadratic function between muscular strength and back injuries. Meaning, the higher the strength level, the lower the incidence of back injuries.🅧

🅧Cady, Lee D. MD, Dr. P.H. Bischoff, David Strength and Fitness and Subsequent Back Injuries in Firefighters, Journal of Occupational Medicine, Volume 21, Issue 4, April 1979

Challenge Demographics
Years of operations 32
Number of Events in US & Canada: 594

Thursday, September 7, 2023

17th Annual Firefighter Challenge - Berlin at the Mercedes Benz Arena Plaza

As per usual, Mike Weikamm and company host one of the most professional of Challenge events every year. 

Moving from Potzdamer Platz, the new venue is impressive!

Here's the Traditional Group Photo at the base of the Tower

The Final Race: Relay Championship Poland versus Slovenia
Hosted by YouTube

Monday, July 31, 2023

Open Letter to Congress from over 200 Retired Flag Rank Officers

We respectfully request that Congress, pursuant to its constitutional powers "…to raise and support Armies…" and "… to provide and maintain a Navy…," take legislative action to remove all diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs from the Department of Defense (DoD).

Additionally, we ask that you ensure no DEI-related policies, programs, or funding are included in the 2024 NDAA. As our Nation faces looming threats from "foreign" adversaries/enemies, our military is under assault from a culture war stemming from "domestic" ideologically inspired political policies and practices. If not stopped now, they will forever change the military's warrior ethos essential to performing its mission of deterring aggression and failing that, to fight and win our Nation's wars.

Our military must be laser-focused on one mission—readiness, undiminished by the culture war engulfing our country. For generations, our military was a meritocracy, which simply defined means selection and advancement based solely on merit and ability. Service Members (SMs) were judged not by the color of their skin but by their character, duty performance, and potential. Meritocracy, coupled with equal opportunity, created conditions for all to advance and excel, which stimulates healthy competition, thereby raising standards. Historically, our military has been one of, if not the most, diverse and inclusive institution in America.

The domestic cultural threat has an innocuous name: "diversity, equity, and inclusion" (DEI). But, in reality, DEI is dividing, not uniting, our military and society. DEI's principles derive from critical race theory, which is rooted in cultural Marxism, where people are grouped into identity classes (typically by race), labeled as "oppressed" or "oppressors," and pitted against each other. Under the guise of DEI, some people are selected for career-enhancing opportunities and advancement based on preferences given to identity groups based on race, gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, etc. For example, the DoD twice admitted to using race in service academy admissions in its 2022 amicus brief in the pending Supreme Court college admissions cases.

Our military has practiced "equality" by giving equal opportunities for all to achieve. The equality approach ignores skin color, gender, or ethnicity seeing all SMs as equal, with a common set of values and mission. This does not diminish their individuality but rather celebrates their dedication to duty and a higher noble calling of selfless service to our Nation.

DEI's "Equity" sounds benign, but in practice, it lowers standards. While equality provides equal opportunities, equity's goal is equal outcomes. To achieve equal outcomes using identity group characteristics, standards must be lowered to accommodate the desired equity outcomes. Lower standards reduce performance where even slight differences in capability impact readiness and can determine war-fighting mission success or failure.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) practices use identity-based preferences in selections for career schools and promotions. As with equity, D&I lowers standards by not always selecting the best qualified to become pilots, academy cadets, leaders at all ranks, etc. Identity-based preferences create friction and distrust in the ranks, damaging unit cohesion, teamwork and unity of effort, further degrading readiness.

The "One Team, One Fight" battle motto describes a meritocracy-based military characterized by: • a common mission and purpose; • unqualified loyalty to the team and not to an individual's identity group; • total trust and confidence in each other for their very lives from the foxhole to the highest level; • teamwork/camaraderie resulting in the unit cohesion essential for warfighting readiness.

Meritocracy is essential for winning. In professional sports - where the mission is to win games - the best players are fielded to win, no matter their skin color. If meritocracy is used in sports where the consequence of losing a game is minor, why is it not essential in the military where the worst-case consequences of losing a major war are unimaginable losses of life, destruction, and perhaps our Nation? To win, the best-qualified SMs must be selected to lead America's sons and daughters into life-and-death situations. Meritocracy wins games and it wins wars!

We have fought for our Nation and are sounding the alarm that DEI poses a grave danger to our military warfighting ethos and is degrading warfighting readiness. Social engineering, commonly called "wokeism," has no place in our military. China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea are not distracted by DEI programs; no doubt they are watching us. Equal opportunity and merit-based performance has been battle tested for generations and proven essential for success. DEI policies and practices must be eliminated from the DoD to protect our critical warfighting readiness.

Respectfully submitted,

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

These 8 habits could add up to 24 years to your life, study finds

July 24, 2023 / 10:45 AM

Want to add years to your life? Following a few healthy habits could do just that, according to a new study.

The observational study presented Monday at the American Society for Nutrition's annual meeting in Boston examined data on more than 700,000 U.S. veterans and how their life expectancy shifted based on the number of healthy habits followed.

The findings? Adopting eight healthy lifestyle habits by middle age can result in a substantially longer life than those with few or none of the habits. Those habits include: Being physically active
• Being free from opioid addiction
• Not smoking
• Managing stress
• Having a good diet
• Not regularly binge drinking
• Having good sleep hygiene
• Having positive social relationships

While the habits aren't groundbreaking — you've likely heard health experts advise similar wellness practices — the amount of lifespan expected to be gained from them is impressive.

According to the results, men with all eight habits at age 40 are expected to live 24 years longer on average compared with those with none. Women with all eight habits are predicted to live an 21 additional years.

"We were really surprised by just how much could be gained with the adoption of one, two, three, or all eight lifestyle factors," Xuan-Mai T. Nguyen, health science specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs and rising fourth-year medical student at Carle Illinois College of Medicine, said in a news release. "Our research findings suggest that adopting a healthy lifestyle is important for both public health and personal wellness."

Low physical activity, opioid use and smoking had the biggest impact on lifespan, according to the release, with a 30-45% higher risk of death during the study period.

"Stress, binge drinking, poor diet, and poor sleep hygiene were each associated with around a 20% increase in the risk of death, and a lack of positive social relationships was associated with a 5% increased risk of death," the release added.

In terms of when to take action, "the earlier the better," Nguyen noted, "but even if you only make a small change in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, it still is beneficial."

That's because adopting healthier habits at an older age can still help you live longer, researchers found, even if the life expectancy gain grew slightly smaller with age.

"It is never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle," Nguyen said.

This study has not yet been published by a peer-reviewed publication but was evaluated and selected by a committee of experts to be presented at the meeting.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

It's (mostly) about the Nozzle

The Five Essential Funtions™that comprise the "engine" of the Firefighter Challenge have their origin in the original JTA (job task analysis) that I conducted as a part of our FEMA-funded research while a faculty member of the University of Maryland. 

The criteria for inclusion were: 1. Frequently Performed Tasks; 2. Arduous, and 3. Critical. Anything to do with hydraulics was axiomatically inclusive as an "Essential Function" of fire suppression. I knew from experience that with water weighing 8.3 pounds per gallon, moving supply or attack lines was hard work. 

We measured the physical requirements of moving an attack line to full extension (say 150 feet) in a drag would require an ability to pull ≈240 pounds (as measured by a dynamometer). But, you wanted to have some defining activity to validate that you were "there." Ergo: opening the bale and squirting some water defined the task. 

Nominally, for a straight bore nozzle, with 125psi, you get some kickback, so again, there's a built-in physical demand that requires a combination of dynamic and static strength. Getting up a good head of steam before the looped sections are pulled into the equation was an excellent way to keep up the momentum. 

Initially, we didn't have a target; that will come later. But, what to do with the nozzle once the task was accomplished? Squirt water. That's what. 

With the first Challenge event held at the University of Maryland's Fire Rescue Institute, we used appliances and hose provided by MFRI. The following year we began to assemble our own assets. At FDIC held in Cincinnatti, the representative of Akron demonstrated the ruggedness of their straight bore nozzle by spiking it on the concrete floor. He said, "you can do that all day long." I was impressed. 

In our first formative years, Task Force Tips (TFT) approached us and offered to become the "Official Nozzle" of the Challenge. Doug McMillian, brother of Stewart, had a pair of targets designed for our application. It had a strobe on top and a horn powered by a Scott air bottle that would sound when the guillotine fell. This ingenious design, weighing about 300 pounds, would have to be reduced in weight and complexity when used on tour. 

Doug wanted us to use their Automatic Nozzle; I suggested that this was the bridge too far in that I had been taught in basic school that you treated these appliances with care; not dropping them on the ground or using them for forcible entry. Our trademark, the "Hose Dragging Man," was a posterized image created by George Eade, our commercial artist, who designed the stylized and trademarked "Firefighter Challenge" with the Fruiter font. 

Not unexpectantly, the nozzles began to break. Doug asked that I explain to the Competitors that they had to gently place the nozzles on the ground before advancing. I said, "I'll be glad to explain that the TFT nozzles required special handling." He got it immediately and said, "We'll make them tougher." And he did. 

Shortly after this solution, Doug and Stewart had a falling out, and the sponsorship was collateral damage. 

Enter Elkhart Brass. Danny Brogden, who I had known prior to his becoming the marketing guy for Elkart. He proffered that their fog nozzle would be up to the Challenge. As you know, you can dial in a number of patterns, but he locked in the straight stream function. The nozzle came with a chrome bale. I said, "I think that's going to be a problem." He differed and as it turned out, was correct. 

Then came POK, a French manufacturer of a whole line of firefighting appliances. Jean-Marc Tassé was the North American marketing manager and wanted to make a statement about their presence in the business. So, POK paid for the 700-pound scoreboard and provided the smoothbore, straight stream nozzle that went into use for the next 20 years. 

The scoreboard, made by Colorado Timing, turned out to be an albatross. The display was better suited for indoor applications and was a constant headache requiring maintenance and power supply replacements. Jay Staeden, our then-Operations Manager, could be seen hanging from a rope with a broomstick in his hand, banging the back of the panels to get bulky displays to light up. Colorado Timing never completed the specifications and kept screaming to get paid. 

We ended up dumping off the whole pile of junk in their parking lot. But, true to his word, Jean-Marc continued to work on improving the nozzles. By rev 4.0, he had it mil-spec'd and nuclear-hardened. Until: 

When Jean-marc disappeared to Costa Rica, leaving the entire Maryland Warehouse on Maryland's Eastern Shore abandoned, we thought we might return to the original Akron Brass product. We purchased (against our religion) two of their straight bore nozzles and were sorely disappointed that they failed almost immediately. So, scratch that idea. 

Since we conducted a couple of events in Elkhart, IN, and they provided us with nozzles for that event, we thought exploring a partnership was worth pursuing. For WCXXX two beautiful nozzles were produced and put into service. Regrettably, they did not survive. 

We have made entreaties to POK through three emails, alerting them that the decision to go to a metal bale was a mistake. Of course, for the preponderance of fire fighting organizations, they never approach their end of life since no one abuses equipment like we do. In fact, we lay claim to being the "Aberdeen Proving Ground" of the fire service. If you want to have your stuff tested, we run "Four Alarm Fires" every weekend. 

The clear value to any company that wishes to associate their equipment with the very rugged nature of the Challenge is an imprimatur. 

While in Fort Pierce, Captain-Paramedic John Tillett (ret) pointed out to me the major differences between the POK product and what Elkhart had produced. The POK nozzle is machined from a solid block of a metal composite. The handle is a brass frame, covered by a rubberized material and secured with taps, drilled into the body. 

One note: way back, Clint Lamb and I got the idea of inserting a quarter-inch washer into the smooth bore of the nozzle. This reduced the flow, since we have a finite amount of water (250gal) onboard our Semi trailer. 

The really fast guys can knock down the target with as little as a liter of water. 

So, what's next? 

If we can't find a suitable replacement to the handle issues on the POK nozzle, we may be forced to add a requirement that after knocking the target down, the nozzle has to be hung on a hook. I know that there will be push-back since this added step will take additional time. But, we simply can't be at the mercy of equipment that is no longer up to the Challenge. 

Parenthetically, I must mention that while in Paris, a few years back, POK funded my trip to their factory at Nogent-sur-Seine. I was very impressed with their operations and their CEO Dr. Alexandra Grandpierre. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Weighting game

Weighting game

While there’s nothing particularly new about people trying to manage and keep their weight down, the number of people who may be tempted to experiment with medical remedies like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro is higher than ever as obesity rates have risen in the US.

The CDC has been taking periodic surveys of the nation’s health since 1960, when the overall share of obese US adults (those whose Body Mass Index exceeded 30) was just 13%. That figure, as well as the number of Americans who are severely obese (BMI at or over 40), has soared in the years since, hitting 43%, according to the latest survey in 2018. The rises have affected men and women similarly, too, with male obesity rising ~4x from 1962-2018 and the share of severely obese women in the US soaring more than 10x across the same period.

Some experts suggest the late 1970s and early 1980s as points at which the obesity epidemic picked up in the US, with many nodding to increasing levels of dietary fat, sugar, and ultra-processed foods as possible causes. However, even with that backdrop, the acceleration in obesity rates in recent years has been stark — and the full effects are being felt today. Indeed, obesity in America costs an estimated $260 billion each year in inpatient and outpatient care and causes thousands of preventable illnesses and deaths annually, according to the National Institute of Health. Given the scale of the issue, many have been waiting for a “magic solution” for years.