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Fat farmers tackle a weighty issue

22 March 2018


A few years ago, South Australian grain farmer Ben Wundersitz and some farming mates on the Yorke Peninsula were lamenting their growing waistlines.

They’d given up competitive sport and realised that farm work alone wasn’t providing them with enough exercise to keep them fit and healthy.

But rather than have another beer and forget about it, the group decided then and there they’d do something about it.

The men started weekly exercise sessions and committed to running the City-Bay Fun Run in Adelaide each year. The seeds of ‘Fat Farmers’ were sown.

Seven years down the track, the Fat Farmers Rural Health Initiative boasts six teams and more than 100 members in farming communities across South Australia – from the Mallee to the Eyre Peninsula and Barossa region.

Fat Farmers is designed to provide male and female farmers with the motivation to set a fitness goal and develop social networks in the process. It’s a great family friendly activity which includes a variety of fitness levels.

“Keeping fit and within a healthy weight range can be a challenge for farmers,” said Fat Farmers Executive Officer Sally Fisher.

“Once they cease competitive sport, such as local footy or netball, their options to stay fit and healthy are often limited. And finding time for physical activity is not easy for anyone – including busy farmers.”

Sally said physical activity had gradually been minimised by mechanism and technology in many farming activities, and it had impacted farmers’ health and wellbeing.

“Many people do not meet the target of 2.5 to five hours per week of moderate intensity exercise or 75 to 150 minutes per week of vigorous activity.”

Sally said each Fat Farmer team had tailor made its own program to suit team members.

“Some run, some do gym work, some exercise in the park. Some groups meet twice a week; others once a week or less. It varies from team to team – and season to season.”

Sally said the underlying aim of Fat Farmers was to inspire and encourage rural communities to stay fit and healthy.

“Despite our name, we are inclusive of all shapes and sizes and there is no stereotyping or stigmatising of participants – all farmers and associated businesses are welcome.

Once a year, the whole group gets together to compete in the City-Bay Fun Run, and some groups take part in shorter, community fun runs and walks.

“We have also done some cycling events and this year we’re encouraging people to try triathlons.

“The evidence shows that keeping a healthy body contributes to a positive mood and that’s something we’re big on at the Fat Farmers Rural Health Initiative. All monies we raise along the way goes towards men’s mental health and wellbeing programs.”

Sally said it was recognised that rural men’s health outcomes are poorer than rural women’s and their urban counterparts’ health for a number of reasons.

“That is why we have worked with the Australian Institute of Male Health and Studies who deliver the Menswatch program and the Freemason’s Foundation Centre for Men’s Health to create films alerting men to health issues they need to address early,” she said.

“These films were funded by SA Health as part of the ‘Healthy Workers-Healthy Futures’ program.”

Sally said staying active was vital not only for health and wellbeing, but was an essential part of running a successful farm business.

“After all, we all know how a back injury or a knee injury can slow you down, let alone serious health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Keeping within a healthy weight range and staying fit will give you the best chance of success.

“Our aim is to integrate health, wellbeing and safety into the culture of farming life – and to develop social networks and have fun along the way.”

Sally’s top tips for staying fit and healthy
01 Share your fitness goal with others, to help you stay motivated. Tell your wife, tell your workmates, tell your friends – they will encourage you to keep going.

02 Keep your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and within a Timeframe). For example, rather than say ‘I’m going to lose 5 kilograms’, try this instead: ‘I will walk 30 minutes a day, three times a week, for the next 12 weeks.’

03 Exercise in a group. Exercising together is fun and keeps you motivated, because you’ve committed to the group and won’t want to let them down.

04 Avoid or limit snacks. Snacks tend to be high in calories and low on nutrition and really aren’t necessary if you’re eating three balanced meals a day.

05 Keep in mind that alcohol is high in calories, so reduce your consumption if appropriate.

Fat Farmers is seeking sponsorship from agribusinesses to support its work into the future.

To learn more or to join Fat Farmers, go to fatfarmers.com; email info@fatfarmers.com or call Sally on 0410 473 167.