Why exercise is important

As a farmer you will know that work never ends. Up at dawn and asleep later than most. Farming has always been considered one of the most physically demanding environments to work in. Although a lot of the workload is physical, research shows that many farmers don’t do as much physical activity as they used to.

It is also likely to be seasonal activity so you may not be quite as ’fit for purpose’ as you used to be. 

Farming can still be a physically demanding way of life but information shows that modern age farming is relying more on machinery, vehicles (rather than horses) and technology. This essentially means farmers are spending a lot more time sitting down.

The importance of exercise is no secret and it’s not specific to any one person or industry –everyone will benefit from daily exercise and movement. However, those who are spending most of the time sitting during the day are at a higher risk of serious health complications such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, mental health issues, and musculoskeletal aches and pains.

A study conducted by The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that when compared with people living in major cities and inner regional areas, people living in outer regional, rural and remote areas were more likely to engage in high risk health behaviours.

These high risk behaviours include:

  1. Smoking
  2. Poor diet choices and eating patterns (eg skipping meals)
  3. Risky alcohol consumption
  4. Not getting enough exercise.

Common Health Issues for Farmers

Physical Problems

The physical pressures put on the body when farming can put a lot of demands on the joints, spine, and nervous system. From lifting heavy objects, jumping up and down off machinery, and having to react quickly to animals, handling heavy animals (e.g. crutching sheep), and vibration from motor bikes can all pose a risk to your body.

Having a body that is strong and stable can help reduce injuries and help the body react safer and faster to any situation.

Poor Mental Health

Poor mental health and alarming suicide rates are the re-occurring theme throughout the communities affected by the drought, floods, fires and COVID-19. Tragically, Beyond Blue reports that the suicide rate in very remote areas of Australia is more than double that within our major cities.

Regular exercise has been found to have a profoundly positive impact on mental health. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood.

A study found that exercise can be as effective as medication and psychotherapies. One way that movement can boost mood is by increasing a brain protein called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) that helps nerve fibers grow, making you feel happier.

The NCFH has also developed a number of support documents that you can access here.

Ageing Workforce

The average age of a farmer is now 57 years old. At this age it is expected to see an increase in conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Keeping your physical and mental health in tip top shape as we age is vital to reduce age related concerns. Exercise can support every single part of our bodies fight off the effects of age!

If you are over 65, Exercise Right is offering subsidised exercise classes run by professionals to help you get more active and take control of your health. Click here for more.

Why exercise is important

Exercise relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. Essentially anything that gets your body moving can help manage your physical and mental health.

It’s important to note that exercise doesn’t have to be in a gym or a custom-built facility, it can be as simple as a walk, stretching session, or using items around the house as weights.

Exercise should be seen as an opportunity to be able to perform every part of your job at the highest level. Exercise can help you avoid injuries, increase your work capacity and fight off work related health conditions and mental health.

Expert support

There are a range of different accredited exercise professionals who can support the rural and remote farming population. Accredited exercise physiologists are university training professionals who tailor exercise programs to suit your lifestyle and health condition. You can find your closest expert by clicking here.

Fast Facts:

  • Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
  • Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
  • Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.
  • If you already have an injury or health concern, talk to your GP or local Accredited Exercise Physiologist before undertaking any additional exercise.