This week our fitness columnist and owner of Rushe Fitness Emmet Rushe discusses the rise of obesity in the farming community.
With the National Ploughing Championships 2018 taking place this week, we are going to talk about the farming community and how their busy lifestyles could be affecting their health and weight.
In 2015, more than 90% of farmers from across Donegal were found to be overweight or obese following a free health check clinic carried out at Raphoe Mart.
The Irish Farmers’ Journal teamed up with Full Health Medical, ICOS and Movember Ireland to bring these free checks to marts around the country.
Three out of four farmers were also suffering from problems with their blood pressure and a high percentage reported suffering from their moods and also with stress.
Farming has always been an active job, but the number of farmers who are active outside of their work on the farm is very low.
Couple this with a poor diet and add stress, lack of sleep and financial pressure, and you can see why there is a problem.
The Irish Heart Foundation ran a similar program in 2014 called Farmers Have Hearts, FHH.
The FHH program was again set up in order to run health checks on farmers at marts.
Their reasoning for this was simple.
They found from the study that: ‘Overall, farmers felt that heart health checks at marts were a good initiative for a number of reasons. Almost half of the farmers (41.9%) said that they ‘would not have had a health check otherwise’; 14.0% said that it raised health awareness; while 12.8% stated that ‘meeting the IHF at the mart broke the ice and helped to overcome fears of getting a health check done’.
The FHH study was run from October 2013 until May 2014 and their findings were as follows;
• Almost half of the farmers had high blood pressure.
• Almost half of the farmers had raised cholesterol levels
• The majority of participating farmers were found to be overweight or obese.
• The waist circumference of farmers exceeded recommended waist measurements
• One-third of participating farmers reported not physically active for 5 days or more a week
• Almost half of the farmers reported that they drank alcohol on a regular basis
• A majority of farmers were found to have three or more CVD risk factors based on objectively measured health outcomes from the heart health checks.
Dr Jack Halligan from Full Health Medical, who ran the checks at Raphoe mart, said that a significant difference in cholesterol levels was found between Raphoe and a similar study in Roscommon.
He posed the question: ‘Does Red meat in Ulster have a higher fat percentage than the red meat in Connacht?’
However, a report from 2014 by the Irish Heart Foundation showed that it isn’t as simple as saying that red meat could be the main problem when it comes to higher cholesterol levels.
You would have to look at the diet and lifestyle as a whole before you could demonise a single food group as being the sole cause of the problem.
Changing their diets and being active outside of their work on the farm will be a huge help to farmers regarding all areas found in both studies.
Some simple switches that can have a huge benefit are:
• Switching to whole foods with each meal.
• Make the majority of their carbohydrates at each meal with vegetables. (1/2 your plate)
• Eating lean protein with each meal. (Chicken, Turkey, Fish, Beef)
• Reducing the number of processed foods. (Ready meals, takeaways, fried foods)
• Lowering their alcohol intake.
• Increasing their water intake.
• Changing the way, they cook their foods, less frying and more grilling and steaming.
• Stop eating biscuits and bars straight after your dinner.
• If you have to eat before bed, have a protein-rich meal.
For physical activity find something you enjoy doing and try and add it in 2-3 times per week at least.
It can be as simple as organising a game of astroturf with other farmers a few nights per week or any other activity you might enjoy.
Apart from the exercise you are also getting to de-stress for a few hours each week, it will allow you to switch your mind off from work and any other stresses that come from being in the farming business in the current climate.
Although farming is traditionally associated with a healthy lifestyle, farmers are affected by lifestyle diseases which tells us that something needs to change.
With any health or weight related problem, physical activity and a healthy diet will always be the best way to start to make a change for the better. #leanin2018
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