Given that certain jobs, particularly military, law enforcement, and protective services, require you to pass a physical examination as a prerequisite to employment, there must be an intrinsic value to that job description – the reason for which that physical requirement was set. In most cases, besides general health, specific job requirements, especially those demanding physical performance, require strength and flexibility.
In the world of hard skills (physical techniques or tactics), police, fire department, and medical (EMT and the like) are required to lift heavy objects such as equipment and human bodies, which requires strength. These jobs require enough flexibility to get in and out of emergency vehicles (cars and trucks), aircraft, or waterborne rescue platforms such as fast rescue boats (FRBs), emergency services hovercraft, and the like.
The critical importance of strength and flexibility extends far beyond your employment. Two important questions you need to ask yourself are: Are you physically capable of doing it? If so, can you do it quickly enough to be effective?
What if it was the case that because of a manmade or natural disaster, you might need to carry your spouse or one of the kids (or any other loved one) out of a burning fire or run 100 yards away from an outdoor sniper attack?
Strength training is paramount to daily life as we need to open doors, climb stairs, carry groceries, and lift objects daily. Are you strong enough to change a tire? Move a log out of the way of your vehicle if it falls, blocking your path? You might need to push (or help push) your car or someone else in need to the side of the road or out of a mud, snow, or ice patch under challenging circumstances.
Strength can also mean endurance. Are you capable of hiking for two hours? Could you do it wearing a backpack? Could you do it with another person where you may need to assist them? Any activity that engages your muscles more than usual is considered a strength exercise and increases your muscle’s strength, endurance, and size. Such activities involve working against resistance or using your body weight to include climbing stairs, weightlifting, hill walking, resistance bands, heavy gardening (shoveling), cycling, yoga, and the like.
You can use light to medium physical activity to help build muscular strength and skeletal support. Structural strength – bone, muscular – and cardiovascular endurance are all part of maintaining a minimal fitness level.
If you were caught in an active shooter incident and needed to run 100 yards, there are two common scenarios: One, that you have the strength and stamina and are fully capable of doing so, or 2. You are not, but at least you can know ahead of time that running is outside your response options skills set.
You don’t need to run a six-minute mile, but if the situation demands you to get up and move quickly away from a threat area and possibly assist others, knowing that you have the physical capacity provides you with a viable plan. If you cannot, then you need alternative action and movement plans.
Another type of strength is not related to the body but is attributed to mental fortitude, resilience, and determinism. When you must get up and go to work in the morning, and you don’t feel like it, and you want to lay in bed just another 20 minutes to catch up on some very badly needed rest, you call upon your passion, inspiration, and motivation to help you but to no avail. It is none other than mental discipline that will come to your rescue.
The combination of physical and mental strength separates those who are prepared to face the challenges of today’s current and emerging threats from those who are not.
The other half of the physical aptitude equation is flexibility. Flexibility plays a vital role in the physical movement in and out of vehicles, up ladders, and when assuming asymmetrical positions such as kneeling and squatting. What good is it to be the strongest person in the world if you can’t bend over and tie your own shoelaces?
Activities that improve the ability of joints and tendons to facilitate movement necessary for accomplishing basic daily tasks and physical activities are considered flexibility exercises. Such exercises can include but are not limited to martial arts (Tai Chi, Brazilian Jiujitsu et al.), yoga, daily stretching, and Pilates, to name a few.
The benefits of strength and flexibility extend beyond that of active threat preparedness. They can help maintain the ability to perform everyday tasks while decelerating bone and muscle loss associated with aging. Improving your strength and flexibility is known to help support your posture, reduce everyday aches and pains, and lower your risk of personal injury.