Physical fitness for police officers may be defined as the ability to perform essential tasks with vigor, alertness, and little or no fatigue with a rapid recovery period after high levels of exertion. During and after periods of physical exertion, it is essential that a police officer is able to maintain good judgment and make the best decisions.
Individuals in the criminal justice field have unique job functions, some of which can be physically demanding and dangerous. The officer’s capability to perform those functions can affect the safety of the officers and the community around them. When applying for a job, take the time to understand what the physical fitness requirements are for police officers and how maintaining your health can impact your career.
Physical Fitness Requirements to Become a Police Officer
In order to be considered for the position of a police officer, you are required to pass a standardized physical fitness test. Some departments use the physical ability test (PAT), which includes testing fitness in events such as running, push-ups, sit-ups, and sit and reach. Others might use the physical qualification test (PQT) which typically involves more of an obstacle course graded challenge that measures a wide range of physical abilities necessary of police work.
Regardless of which test the department uses as the standard, basic physical fitness must be displayed by a candidate. Exercises such as sprinting, running (two miles or more), vertical jumps, and strength training are highly recommended to become familiar and comfortable with.
When working to meet these fitness standards, don’t hesitate to visit the particular department’s website. Often times, the website will contain not only the standards that you must meet, but suggestions on how to best train for the specific events. The employees you are taking the fitness test with may also be able to lend you some advice, since they have already met the physical requirements. Here is a list of workouts that can help prepare you for a police department physical ability test.
Fitness Standards Throughout Your Police Officer Career
Even though many United States citizens are aware of our country’s negative health statistics, the U.S. population in general is not as fit as it should be – and police officers are unfortunately no exception. In a study conducted by the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, a randomly sampled 1,700 officers from across the country showed that law enforcement officers are less fit in most areas than at least half of the U.S. citizens, despite the fact that the physical demands of their profession require that they be more fit than the average person.
Due to the alarming health data and steady decline of U.S. citizens’ fitness, some law enforcement organizations are working to establish an internal model health and fitness program. Norwich University’s very own Jevon Thompson, a 2012 graduate of the Master of Public Administration program, wrote his capstone paper on the importance of maintaining fitness and health for public safety officers throughout the longevity of their careers. His capstone paper was published as an article in Law and Order.
Physical Fitness Outcomes
In addition to meeting job requirements, reaching and maintaining good physical conditioning has been shown to:
- Reduce the incidence of heart attacks (major cause of death for law enforcement officers over 35 years old)
- Reduce the incidence of back injury (a common injury suffered by law enforcement officers)
- Reduce the amount of sick time needed and number of retirements due to disability
- Enhance recovery time from an injury
- Provide a variety of options besides the use of deadly force
- Provide an outlet for relief from stress
- Reduce healthcare costs
- Allow for a long, rewarding career into retirement
- Reduce depression