Why Are 40% of Cops Obese?

Jan 18, 2021


“One of the biggest threats to Law Enforcement is Law Enforcement itself.” -Adam, CEO of Effective Fitness and PolicePosts 

No truer words have been said. 

Why do we feel this way?

Simply put, it’s the nature of the job. 

This article will serve to shed some light on how the career can affect your health as well as give you tips and resources to take control of your health so you can enjoy life outside of your shifts and long after you retire.


Police Work is Sedentary

In the Law Enforcement profession it is highly likely that you will spend a good amount of time sitting down or just staying in the same position for long periods of time. Whether this is due to sitting in a car on patrol or desk time, police work is primarily sedentary. 

This leads to weight gain and a plethora of unhealthy habits and lifestyle factors for cops. 

It is also very common to be sedentary for an extended period of time, then suddenly need a burst of energy to respond to an emergency or just a call.

According to The CDC, 1 person has a heart attack every 40 seconds in the US and 1 person dies of Heart Disease every 36 seconds in the US, making Cardiovascular Disease the leading cause of death. It is not rare to hear that the cause of death for a Police Officer was a heart attack! If you are out of shape, going from doing nothing with a lower heart rate then bursting into action can be dangerous; especially if this activity is sustained over a long period of time. This can put a ton of stress on the heart muscle and the rest of the body, especially if untrained. 



Police Work is Stressful

This career is full of stress! 

Between solving murders, street fights, drug busts, controlling riots, chasing bad guys, dealing with all kinds of trauma (the list goes on and on), we know that stress is certainly a contributing factor for weight gain/lack of weight loss in the LEO community. 

High stress situations and chronic high stress can cause us to make poor decisions for food/drink, decrease our sleep & sleep quality, and not take care of ourselves the way we should be. All of these things tend to lead to poor health overall. 


Police Work and Circadian Rhythm

Police Officers are also subject to work long, irregular shifts, sometimes even alternating between day and night shifts, having to adjust to new schedules that were opposite of the one before it. 

This can mess with your “body clock”, AKA your circadian rhythm that tells us when to be awake and alert and when to calm down and sleep. It also tells us when to eat, sleep, work hard mentally and physically, downregulate so we can sleep, etc. It takes time to adjust and switching back and forth between day and night shifts can really take a toll on your body. 



The Domino Effect.

It has begun. 

All of these factors lead to poor sleep habits that are detrimental to our health. Studies show that 7-9 hours of sleep per night (or day) is optimal for health and performance; very few police officers can attest to getting that much sleep in a 24 hour time period. 

Lack of sleep can then lead to poor decision making. This can be job related (yikes, we have lives at stake here) but also can be related to decisions about what food to eat and if/when to exercise and general self-care. 

What else does lack of sleep lead to? Extremely high caffeine intake. 

We know of a few cops (not saying any names) that consume 1,000mg+ of caffeine per day. After all that caffeine, there is a very low chance of quality sleep. 

Insomnia, anxiety, high heart rate, dependency, caffeine withdrawals (that damn headache) are all side effects of high caffeine consumption. This, on top of everything else we’ve discussed? This is getting ugly. 



Poor Nutrition and Fitness in Law Enforcement

Police Officers struggle with finding the time and the motivation to exercise and to meal prep. How much easier is it to walk in the gas station and buy a slice of pizza and a soda on shift? And who wants to work out after repeated long shifts that made you chronically fatigued from lack of sleep, where you sat the whole time and ate said pizza and drank said soda? 

This is a valid reason that Law Enforcement Officers should be following nutrition guidelines laid out specifically for them. Taking the guesswork out of meal planning and taking the need to walk in the gas station for fuel (food and drink) away can solve a lot of health problems for cops. 



Moving on to things that are out of most of our control

Fitness standards for LE. 

Staying in great physical condition is essential for Law Enforcement for the following reasons: 

  • Officers need the ability to perform essential functions of the job, especially during emergency situations 
  • Protecting your community and being able to take care of yourself and others in high-risk situations 
  • We need to fight the well-known health risks associated with the public safety job
  • Minimizing the risk of excessive force situations 
  • Increasing the chances of making it home after every shift 

But... it’s a rarity to find an agency with a fitness standard or a fitness test that is upheld yearly. All that is required of you is the original PAT before the Academy.

According to The Cooper Institute, these are the standards and the reasoning behind them:

These are the standards upheld: 

We believe that this is a great place to start with your physical fitness, but we know that training above these standards is the real key to being an effective Law Enforcement Officer. After the PAT, you’re on your own. It’s up to you to stay in shape, and there are many that don’t make this a priority. 

As a Police Officer, if you’re fat and weak, how can you do your job? How can you help your family, your community, your brothers and sisters in blue if/when they need it? 

It is your responsibility to make your health and fitness a priority.


Our team has developed a weight-loss habit guide to help officers stay in shape so they can live a better life outside of their shifts and continue to live a long life after they retire.

Click here to download the guide:


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