Statement of Purpose To describe physical activity (PA) patterns (type and frequency) among law enforcement officers (LEOs). To evaluate PA’s impact across LEO stressors.
Methods/Approach LEOs from a large urban police department (n = 353) completed an online survey that included validated measures of PA and social, occupational, and physical stress. Univariate statistics described sociodemographics, prevalence of meeting the recommended volume of weekly physical activity, and the prevalence of three types of stress (social stress; occupational stress; and physical strain). Bivariate models tested the association between meeting the recommended volume of weekly PA across stress type.
Results The majority of participants were male (83%) and non-Hispanic White (50%) with an average age of 36 (Standard Deviation=9.6). A total of 37% of participants met the recommended weekly volume of weekly PA. The most common types of PA were weightlifting or strength training (56%), walking (53%), and stretching (48%). PA was statistically associated with occupational stress, such that LEOs with moderate occupational stress were significantly less likely to exercise daily and/or weekly compared to low or high occupational stressed officers. There was no statistical association between PA and social stress or physical strain.
Conclusions A suboptimal number of officers meet the recommended PA guidelines. Results show that the association between PA and occupational stress result in a U-shape curve, with moderately stressed officers the least likely to meet PA guidelines. These finding have important implications for injury prevention among LEOs as wellness programs may be needed to promote frequency of physical activity and reduce occupational stress.
Significance This is the first study to evaluate types of PA among LEOs. The protective relationship between PA and stress is particularly important to explore for physically and emotionally taxing occupations.
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