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First Responders Taking the “Chief’s Challenge” at Club Fit to Keep themselves Fit and Ready
Research by Cardiologist at Phelps Hospital Shows High Risk for Heart Disease Among Public Safety Personnel
(December 20, 2012) More than 180 members of local police and fire departments have been among the first to respond to a call for a higher level of fitness in their ranks. They have signed up to participate in the “Chief’s Challenge,” a program starting January 1 at Club Fit facilities in Jefferson Valley and Briarcliff Manor to improve the health and wellness of public safety personnel.
The program was inspired by research conducted by Dr. Franklin Zimmerman, Senior Attending Cardiologist and Director of Critical Care at Phelps Memorial Hospital Center. His findings were published recently in Cardiology in Review and presented at a meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police held in San Diego.
“We found that law enforcement personnel are at a high risk for heart disease. They have a high prevalence for cardiac risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cigarette smoking, psychological stress and a sedentary lifestyle,” said Dr. Zimmerman. “Both police officers and firemen need to be encouraged to build their own personal health, beginning with a regular exercise program such as the one being offered to them at Club Fit.”
Beginning January 1, the “Chief’s Challenge” features a free three-month membership at Club Fit for all police and fire personnel in Westchester and surrounding counties. At the end of the first three months, memberships can be extended at half-price. The departments with the highest average club visits at the end of three months will win a $500 donation provided by the Heart and Health Education Foundation that Dr. Zimmerman heads with his partners and fellow Phelps cardiologists Arthur Fass, MD, and Dina Katz, MD. The departments with the highest average number of visits at the end of a year will receive a $1,000 donation.
Dr. Zimmerman is hopeful that the program will be so successful in the Westchester area that it can be expanded and serve as a model across the country. “When I spoke to the Westchester County Chiefs of PoliceAssociation earlier this year, the feedback was tremendous,” he said. “They recognize the need to keep their officers fit and healthy as a very important part of their commitment to public safety.”
In addition to his professional interest in the health of the nation’s first responders, Dr. Zimmerman has a personal interest because his sister, Shelley Zimmerman, is Assistant Chief of Police for the City of San Diego. “She is also a triathlete and trains regularly,” said Dr. Zimmerman, “so I’ve had lots of support for this program in the family and through my sister’s connections nationally.”
Dr. Zimmerman lectures regularly on cardiovascular health and related emergencies to EMTs and other firstresponders at the Hoch Center for Emergency Education at Phelps. He and his partners are all members of Club Fit Briarcliff and can be seen exercising at the club nearly every day, practicing what they preach to their patients about a healthy lifestyle.
For more information about the “Chief’s Challenge,” call Laura Crowe at Jefferson Valley Club Fit at 914-250-2722 or Joe DaRonco at Briarcliff Manor Club Fit at 914-250-2783.