Farming is a physically and mentally demanding job. Each season brings different challenges.
It often entails long hours and changeable tasks that require both strength and stamina.
Farmers have a keen eye – whether it be for stock that are not thriving or machinery that needs attention.
However, the most important asset on a farm is you, the farmer. It is vital that you give the same care and attention to your own health and wellbeing.
No matter how busy your farm is, taking time to focus on your heath will ensure you have a longer, more productive work life as you age.
Being up to the challenge
It is vital with any physical job to be both physically and mentally fit for the demands it presents. If you were playing football and the coach saw that you were overweight, had reduced flexibility affecting your performance, were deconditioned and experiencing anxiety, you would be benched until you were fit and ready. Farming should be approached no differently.
Being physically and mentally fit will prevent injuries. Do you warm up before starting your farm work? Do you exercise to improve your strength and work performance? It always fascinates me how people will prepare and train for sport but when it comes to their daily physical jobs, they hop out of bed, eat and start working. A gentle morning routine of movement exercises can help get your joints and body ready for work. Complement this with a weekly exercise plan to help keep you farming-fit and improve your future health.
High risk for injury
Research has shown that Irish farmers are at high risk of sustaining injury and developing diseases (such as heart disease, cancer and, more recently, COVID-19).
In a recently published survey carried out by Teagasc and the National Centre for Men’s Health, two-thirds of Irish farmers were found to be overweight.
Most Irish farmers are men and men are more likely to develop larger build-up of fat around their stomachs. This stomach fat increases the risk of developing coronary artery disease, type two diabetes and high blood pressure.
Men were also found to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and consume more high-calorie, fried and sugary foods.
However, the good news is that cardiovascular fitness is also an important predictor of your future health. So, the fitter you are, the less likely you are to develop these chronic diseases regardless of your weight. Investing your time in exercise will pay dividends.
Unpredictable way of life
Farming is always changing, from new developments in machinery reducing the physical demands of the job to the weather, fluctuating markets and rising farm costs. This can contribute to both physical and mental stress and contribute to increased risk of farm accidents, as well as anxiety and depression. A great way to manage all of this is through exercise.
There are 1,440 minutes in each day. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends you only need to use 30 to 40 minutes of them for physical activity and exercise. It is also important that you do some weekly strength exercises. Research has shown this will improve your fitness, muscular strength, bone health, sleep, mental health, and brain function. It will also reduce your risk of falling.
Small changes for a big difference
So, it might be time to ditch the daily fry-ups, maintain a healthy weight and focus on improving your fitness. Find ways to walk, move and exercise more throughout your day. There are lots of great resources out there like the Staying Fit for Farming booklet by the Health and Safety Authority or you can check out the Fit Farmers programme currently being run by Roscommon Sports Partnership (firstname.lastname@example.org).