Remaining mobile for active farming

Di Dixon is a graduate of the NCFH Graduate Certificate in Agricultural Health and Medicine and founder of Panoramic Health and Fitness. In this blog series, Di combines her expertise in farmer health and her passion for empowering people to overcome lifestyle obstacles with confidence, courage and ease.

Over time the landscape of active farming has changed. Active farming used to require being physically active and able to move large objects manually, to walk long distances daily, and to be able to handle the physically heavy repetition that farming encapsulated. Now technology and innovation mean that we spend less time in the paddock and field doing manual labour. So while the image of the active farmer remains, the reality can be very different. It’s not surprising that our farmers are physically seeing some of the same issues creep in as their office dwelling counterparts. 

Mobility has a tremendous impact on your quality of life. It affects how you feel when you wake up in the morning, the ease of your daily activities and when you can move better, you just plain feel better. So first up – what is mobility? It is the ability to move freely and easily. It’s the active range of motion through your joints and muscles. In everyday terms, it’s being able to reach overhead to get something off the top shelf or easily bending down to pick up something off the floor or even being able to turn your head to look over your shoulder. 

There are a few factors that can affect your mobility. Some within our control, and others not. These include age, activity level, our build, the tissue surrounding our joints and any previous injuries. By improving factors in the area we can control we can lower our risk of injury, improve posture, and move more easily – particularly as we age.

In focusing on the factors that are within our control (activity level and the tissues surrounding our joints) let’s look at what can be done to improve our mobility.

Start with the area where you feel the tightest and then move onto the others. Remembering that it’s all connected, so by working on one area you might already improve the others anyway.

Over time, aim to build up to 2-3 mobility sessions of between 8-15 minutes each week. The best time of day to do these exercises is when you have time. They don’t need a specific warm up or cool down, just get stuck straight in. 

Ankle Mobility:

Tennis ball roll

  1. Place a tennis or lacrosse ball under your foot and with light pressure, slowly roll from side to side so the ball goes across your arch. Repeat for 20-30 seconds.
  2. Then, roll the ball from heel to toe for another 20-30 seconds.
  3. Switch sides.

Experiment doing this both sitting and standing to see what feels best for your feet.

Demo Video

Hip Mobility:

Walking Hip Openers

  1. Take a step forward and lift the other leg’s knee up in front of you (hip height if you can), and then move it out to the side and around before stepping forward with it.
  2. Repeat on the other side, for a total of 10-20 steps and then do it in the reverse direction (walking backward, being careful to avoid obstacles).

Demo Video

Upper/Middle Back Mobility:

Thread the Needle

  1. Get on your hands and knees on the floor. Keeping your hips square and your left hand on the floor, lift your right arm up toward the ceiling as you twist to the right.
  2. Goal: fully extend your arm to point up to the sky.
  3. From here, drop your right arm down and “thread” it beneath your chest, reaching out beyond your left side, dropping your right shoulder and temple to the floor if you can.
  4. Stay for a couple breaths and repeat the sequence 2-3 times before performing on the opposite side.

Demo Video

Shoulder Mobility:

Shoulder passthrough

  1. You’ll need a stick (like a broomstick or dowel) or a resistance band to do this exercise.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms in front of your body.
  3. Hold the stick or resistance band with straight arms, with an overhand grip.
  4. The stick/band should be below your waist, your hands wider than your shoulders. If you’re using the band, gently press outward to create a light amount of resistance.
  5. Engage your core and keep the rest of your body in position as, with straight arms, you slowly raise the stick or band above your head, keeping your arms straight. Only go as far as comfortable.
  6. Hold the pose for a few seconds.
  7. Return to the starting position.
  8. Repeat 5-10 times.

Demo Video

Wrist and Neck Mobility:

Chin tucks

  1. Stand or sit tall, with your core engaged. Let your arms rest alongside your body.
  2. Draw your shoulder blades back and down.
  3. Slowly draw your chin in toward your chest.
  4. Hold for a few seconds. Return to the start position.
  5. Repeat for 3-5 repetitions.

Demo Video

Di Dixon Healthy and Active Farmer Blog Series

This blog is post three in a series exploring health and wellbeing among farmers and farm workers, and how they can take simple, easy steps to improve their overall health and fitness. A list of the previous posts to date are below.

Fuelling for increased energy | National Centre for Farmer Health

The health and wellbeing of rural women | National Centre for Farmer Health

If you have a question or querie for Di, please reach out to her via