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Stretching For Your Health


Back pain and strains affect everyone at some point in our lives. The numbers tend to increase significantly for Officers and Dispatchers.

Officers are required to wear anywhere from 15-20lbs extra weight from all of their gear on a day to day basis. This gear places extra stress on their neck and their spine. The foot pursuits, the extended periods of standing in boots with little to no cushion or arch support, and then sitting in vehicles with little back support that were not designed for prolonged periods of sitting takes its toll over the years.

Dispatchers sit anywhere from 8-13 hours a day! Did you know that people stuck at their desks have a higher risk of obesity, increased blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, slowed metabolism, muscle weakness, neck and back problems? Studies have also found that those who sit more than six hours a day are at an increased risk of early death from all causes, higher by an average 35% for women and 18% for men, for those who exercise. Those who don't exercise and sit all day are at a 94% higher risk of premature death for women, and a 48% higher risk for men.

There are ways to help prevent these aches and injuries. Stretching increases the blood flow to the muscles, it can improve joint range of motion, decrease risk of injury, enable your muscles to work more effectively and can improve your athletic performance. The important thing to keep in mind is that you will benefit from the stretching if you do it at least 2-3 times a week (this could be just your work days) and do your stretches for at the very least for 5-10 minutes. If you decide to break this habit then your range of motion will begin to decrease and you will have to gradually work your way back to where you left off.

When you are getting started, try warming up your body first with some activity such as brisk walking, jogging, biking at a low intensity before you start the stretching process.

Stretching Points to focus on:

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  • Strive for symmetry: focus on flexibility on both sides of the body, not just one leg or one arm. (we don't want to have lopsided flexibility)
  • Focus on major muscle groups, stretching both sides of calves, thighs, hips, lower back neck, shoulders
  • Don't bounceā€¦it can actually cause damage and cause muscle tightness
  • Hold your stretch 30-60 seconds
  • Aim for tension not pain

I know that our job can be unexpected. Time to stretch on the job is not always an option for both officers and dispatchers.However, when we do get that, dare I say it... experience a "quiet" time, generally speaking, you are to stand, move or walk around for at least 5 minutes for every 30 minutes of sitting. I realize for dispatchers even though we are allotted so many breaks per shift it is not always doable. There are, however, some things we can do to help, such as raise our positions to standing, correct our seated and standing posture.

Officers try to take frequent breaks when possible at least once every hour. Correct your posture and walk around the station or around a business that is requesting an extra patrol. Try putting supportive inserts in your boots, avoid placing hard objects on your sam browne so that you don't have it resting on your back when you sit down, you could even add a lumbar cushion for support in your unit.

There are many little changes you can do while on the job to help avoid these types of aches and pains, many of the stretches you can do while waiting outside of your patrol car or while sitting in dispatch. Make stretching a priority. You put your life and effort into helping and saving others. Put that same pride and priority to keep yourself moving and keep the blood flowing.

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Every law enforcement agency that I know of requires you pass a police physical fitness qualification test, also known as a police physical ability test before you even begin processing to become a police officer, deputy sheriff, or state trooper. Law enforcement fitness is a big part of surviving not only the streets but your career. 

Check out my page to learn more how I can help you prepare for the police academy physical fitness program. If you are already in the profession, I can help you lose those unwanted pounds and make you feel better about yourself, your career, and your life!

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