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Personal Wellness Measurements

23 February 2021

Lord Kelvin, a mathematician and physician of the 19th century, is quoted as saying, “What is not measured, cannot be improved. What is not improved is always degraded.”  As first responders, the first thing we do when making patient contact is to begin measuring. This may manifest itself in more subtle ways, such as determining scene safety or observationally measuring a patient’s mental status.  In more concrete terms we take direct measurements of a patient’s vitals to determine the most appropriate intervention.  Even our rigs and inventory are “measured” daily to determine if we have enough fuel or oxygen to be able to successfully perform our job that day.     

So what about our own health, is it not worthy of measurement as is our equipment or patients? What measures can we take to assess our own health and wellbeing to ensure it does not degrade as Lord Kelvin had forewarned?  Fortunately for us, there is a device we all carry around with us 24/7 that can help any of us track many aspects of our health and wellbeing.  This device is our smart phone.

Never in the history of man has it been easier to track our health metrics. It is literally always at our fingertips. The question arises is what exactly should we track.  Some of the more simple things we can track is our weight, blood pressure and heart rate. There are numerous free apps on your phone that will help you track these vital statistics.  Another health metric to track it your Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR). By simply measuring your WHR you can determine if you are a likely candidate to be at risk for diabetes or heart disease. Recently I have begun tracking my Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and can proudly report that after tweaking a few lifestyle choices, I have been able to increase my HRV score thus improving my overall wellbeing.

For those of you willing to go deeper down the rabbit hole, there are devices you can wear like a watch that will track many health metrics for you, such as heart rate, sleep, stress and readiness to exercise. A few of the popular ones on the market today are Fitbit and Whoop. Both have the option of a monthly subscription will give you a little more in depth analysis of how well your human machine is performing. 

With all the technology available to us today, there are many wellness apps and hacks that can provide us valuable information and insight into the state of our wellbeing.  Having worked with numerous individuals helping them to achieve their fitness goals, I can attest to the fact that staying in shape is a lot easier than getting in shape.  Just by using some of the wellness measuring devices that are relatively inexpensive and widely available, we can help to maintain our health and remain the best possible version of ourselves. Stay well.

bio photo

Lieutenant Michael "Sporty" Kilbane

Michael Kilbane is a retired officer from the Cleveland Fire Department having served for over 35 years.

In that time, he has spearheaded many efforts to advance the betterment of the division through wellness initiatives and grants. He has also authored a pamphlet on maintaining back strength and health for firefighters.  Mr. Kilbane’s education includes an undergraduate degree in both Philosophy and Natural Health, along with master’s level coursework in both Physiology and Philosophy.  He is also a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is recognized through that organization as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. As a trained massotherapist, Mr. Kilbane has also witnessed literally first hand the damage done to first responders by over straining in some of the most hostile work environments. His most recent focus is utilizing kettle bells for functional training and is the author of The Athletes Ultimate Guide to Kettlebell Training.

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