Keeping Farmfit – why it’s important and what you can do
Dana Carver and her husband farm 1400 cows in Dunsandel, on the outskirts of Christchurch. Dana is also involved in the industry as Dairy NZ’s wellbeing programme leader and has a background in psychology and fitness. Here are her tips for keeping farmfit.
She says keeping farmers farm fit is essential in an industry with intense workloads and numerous ups-and- downs. Use of machinery and a broadening of roles means many farmers aren’t getting the exercise they need.
“Often nowadays we are in our tractor, or on the quad bike or sitting in the office a lot working on the business so there are fewer opportunities.”
Dana says being fit is crucial for handling the pressures of farming.
“In order to be sharp in a volatile environment we need to be well because that’s where our energy comes from. Energy comes from fitness, healthy eating, getting enough rest and sleep and socialising. If we don’t have energy we get bogged down.”
Two Sides to Fitness
The first part of keeping fit is looking after your muscles and getting them moving.
“We’ve got over 600 muscles in our body. If we don’t use them, they start to atrophy. We have to regularly use those muscles to keep them strong,” says Dana.
The second aspect is looking after the heart and lungs. Dana says regardless of our age we can all gain more energy from working on our cardio-vascular fitness.
“The heart and lungs are one of the most important muscles we have – that’s where we get our oxygen, which gives us energy. In order for our heart and lungs to be working at full potential, we need them to be pushed a little. Ideally, three times a week for at least twenty minutes. That helps them to grow and work really well for us.”
Incorporate exercise in your day
Dana says there are of lot of things farmers can do to get active, and it doesn’t have to involve a gym.
“One farmer figured out it was 2 kms from his house to the shed and jogs that distance two or three times a week. He puts on his running shoes and jogs down and keeps his gumboots at the shed.
“Other farmers are organising teams on farm and setting up events. They train together as a team and then do a 5 km run together in the quieter seasons. There’s some good stories out there and these things don’t cost a lot of money.”
Start small and build
Dana says the key to improving fitness is to set an achievable goal. She says walking is a great place to begin.
“Find a road or a tanker track on your farm that’s 2km long, walk it and time yourself. Then try and do it a little bit faster the following week. Then add a jog after that. It’s amazing how you can watch your body improve. Give yourself little goals and start with walking.”
What is fitness?
“Fitness is really just keeping our body alive and keeping it strong. It doesn’t have to happen in a gym. It’s not about getting so puffed that you’re miserable. It can be a brisk walk. But the key is that you’re just pushing it a little bit, just enough that you are a little puffed but you can still talk. That’s the key to real fitness,” says Dana.