Recommended EMS Fitness Guidelines

Obesity and lack of physical fitness among our general population has been well documented as a significant health problem for our nation. This problem impacts the ability of our EMS systems to effectively serve the needs of patients. Increasingly obese patients contribute to increasing levels of lifting-related injuries among EMS practitioners. As with our general population, obesity and lack of physical fitness within the EMS workforce also contribute to injuries and an increase in chronic diseases.

  • EMS practitioners are seven times more likely than the average worker to miss work as result of injury;
  • Half of all EMS practitioners suffer back pain annually;
  • One of four EMS practitioners will suffer a career ending injury within the first four years of service;
  • Back injury is the #1 reason for leaving EMS;
  • Back injuries are often the result of cumulative wear & tear.

NAEMT recognizes that EMS agencies need to hire EMS practitioners who are able to meet and maintain the physical fitness requirements for the job and that EMS practitioners need to understand the physical fitness levels required for their jobs and how to maintain those fitness levels.

To address this need, NAEMT collaborated with the American Council on Exercise (ACE) to develop suggested physical fitness guidelines for EMS practitioners that: 

  • take into consideration the variety of EMS delivery models and environments within which EMS operates;
  • are based on the physical fitness requirements EMTs and Paramedics need to perform on the job;
  • assist EMS agencies in recruitment and retention of EMS practitioners who are able to safely perform these tasks; and
  • reduce the number and severity of injuries on the job.

To develop the guidelines, five sites that reflect a diversity of service delivery models and environments, populations served and geographic locations, were selected from across the country:

  • Upper Pine River Fire Protection District, Bayfield, Colorado
  • Memphis Division of Fire Services, Memphis, Tennessee
  • Charleston County EMS, Charleston, South Carolina
  • Austin-Travis County EMS, Austin, Texas
  • North East Mobile Health Service, Scarborough, Maine

A team of specialists from ACE traveled to these sites to observe EMTs and Paramedics on the job. The team completed a practitioner task analysis in late 2012. The final report, Recommended EMS Fitness Guidelines, was published in early 2013.