Mishawaka Firefighters Partner with Bethel to Promote Wellness
Members of the Mishawaka Fire Department are taking their wellness efforts to the next level by partnering with Bethel College students and faculty.
The idea emerged during a department meeting – the firefighters meet on a regular basis to look at ways they can improve across all aspects of the department.
“We ask, ‘What are the top areas where we’d like to see improvements?’ And then we brainstorm solutions,” says Firefighter Kevin Gnivecki.
He says the conversation turned to ideas for improving physical and mental wellness, and eventually led them to make connections with Bethel faculty and staff.
The new partnership includes a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) for each member of the department, given by Bethel’s kinesiology faculty and students. The FMS assesses seven movement patterns critical to normal physical function, with the goal of identifying problem areas and then recommending exercises for improvement.
According to Bethel senior Taran Kennedy, doing well on the FMS is not an accurate representation of one’s physical fitness level, only the integrity of certain movement patterns.
“For example, I like to think of myself as physically fit, but I’ve had several shoulder injuries so my score on the shoulder-related test is terrible,” he says.
Gnivecki expects that the FMS will help firefighters minimize risk of injury and maximize physical performance, which will prevent health problems that sometimes take years to surface.
“We want to get people in the mindset that wellness is important while we’re working but also after retirement. We want firefighters to live long, healthy lives after they retire,” he says.
Another aspect of the program is nutrition. Jim Metherd, director for Bethel’s food service provider, Sodexo, is utilizing the expertise of his staff to give the department a variety of resources. These include a two-week menu plan that stations can follow. It meets nutritional standards and takes into account limits on time and budget, giving recommendations on how stations can work together to purchase items in bulk and save money.
“We want to do what we can to make it easier for them to make good choices for their health and their budget,” says Metherd.
Gnivecki sees the partnership as a win-win for Bethel and the community, and Professor of Kinesiology Dave Wiederrecht agrees. “Students are getting some personal training experience and a skill to put on their résumé, and if the firefighters gain better movement and if we can help them better protect themselves and others, that’s an important benefit for them and for our community.”