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Farmer health is everyone’s business

Recent data from the ABS (2019) highlights that 55.1% of the outer regional and remote population complete insufficient physical activity. Physical inactivity can directly affect physical and mental health. Farmers living in rural and remote regions face a higher prevalence of chronic illness, injury and premature death, along with poorer psychological well-being, compared to their metropolitan counterparts (AIHW, 2023). 


Along with improving physical and mental health, being physically active can reduce predisposing factors to chronic health conditions. These predisposing factors include obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can all be addressed through increasing physical activity levels (AIHW 2023). 


A recent study has illustrated that increasing physical activity levels by only 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week, can reduce the risk of developing chronic disease/s by an estimated 13% (AIHW, 2017).


Likewise, increasing physical activity levels by 30 minutes per day, can reduce the risk of developing chronic disease/s by 26%. 

Additionally, Blair (2020) recently completed a study which found that low cardiorespiratory fitness is responsible for more deaths than obesity, smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, accounting for 16% of deaths within men and 17% within women. Similarly, Mandsager et al. (2018), emphasises that increasing physical activity levels from low to below average can increase survival probability by approximately 10%. Furthermore, Myers et al. (2002) highlight that increased exercise capacity is associated with reduced relative risk of death, in individuals with hypertension, COPD, diabetes, smoking, obesity and high cholesterol. The risk of death in individuals with limited exercise capacity is roughly double that of individuals whose exercise capacity is considered elite. 


Farming techniques today are more advanced and modern than ever before. The mechanisation of most manual labour tasks has allowed for greater output of food production, thus enabling Australia’s agricultural industry to remain highly competitive with the rest of the world (PIRSA 2024). However, this offload of highly physical jobs has resulted in farmers being less active, sitting down more than ever before (Farmer Health 2023). Mechanisation is rapidly evolving across Australia, with the demand for agricultural machinery currently at a record high. In 2021-22, Australia imported approximately $2.1 Billion worth of machinery, a 46% increase compared to only 3 years prior (DAFF 2022).  


Some of the barriers to physical activity identified through primary and secondary sources include time restrictions, prevalence of chronic illness, mechanisation, attitudinal beliefs (e.g. perceptions), psychological well-being, poor diet & alcoholism, access to healthcare/facilities, financial burden, fatigue from work, lack of physical activity education and injury. Contrastingly, some of the enablers to physical activity include family/work support, preventative programs, education, healthcare action plans, farm type, sport, accountability, incorporating physical activity into farm work, social group based exercise and prioritisation. Whilst there are many barriers, there is also an equal amount of enablers.  


Good Country Physiotherapy are working with two final year physiotherapy students from the University of South Australia, to develop ways to help farmers increase their physical activity levels. 

As part of this health promotion project, we need to understand the perspectives and needs of farmers in the Limestone Coast region. We want to hear from you! Let us know what you think and help us understand how we can assist! 


Using your mobile phone camera, scan the QR code below OR type in the link below and fill in our 5-minute survey, to assist us in investigating the health and physical activity levels of farmers in the Limestone Coast region. The results of the survey will inform future health promotion interventions to address this important issue for our community. Link: https://forms.office.com/r/EzX9Tb28sy 



Evan Gregoric (greeb002@mymail.unisa.edu.au) & Cody Griffiths (gricj010@mymail.unisa.edu.au

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