Why 10,000 steps might not be enough exercise - farmers told to step up their fitness regimes

'Small changes can make a dramatic difference'
'Small changes can make a dramatic difference'
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Walking 10,000 steps a day may not be enough exercise for farmers if they aren't increasing intensity or breaking a sweat.

Researchers from Teagasc, UCD and WIT recruited 15 farmers to take part in a study to measure their physical activity using fitness trackers.

The study found that farmers underestimated the amount of steps they took, with 14,000 being the daily average achieved by farmers in the study.

UCD's Dr Caitriona Cunningham said that while achieving over 10,000 steps a day is good, farmers need to engage in high-level intensity exercise in order to stay in shape.

"It's a small group of farmers so we have to be careful how we analyse the data," she said.

"Farmers still need to break a sweat even if they are getting all the steps. If they are doing 150 minutes worth of steps around the farm they still need to do high-intensity exercise.

"There needs to be some level of challenge in there, and strengthening exercises should also be completed."

Carlow IT's Noel Richardson added that while there's "a benefit to being active, there are better gains and better return for the more cardio activity you do outside the farm".

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With many farmers set to receive the likes of Fitbits in their Christmas stockings, Dr Cunningham pointed out that while these devices are good for promoting exercise, she reminded them that it must be coupled with intense exercise.

"Whatever prompts exercise is a good idea. Sometimes when people get a new gadget there is enthusiasm around it but this fades," she said.

"If it's getting you to move that's great, but you still need moderate-intensity exercise - preferably away from the farm."

Dr Cunningham added that farmers should ask themselves if there's an option to walk rather than using a quad.

Activity

Teagasc health and safety specialist Dr John McNamara said that this study only examined farmers' movement during the month of June and added that it would be worth doing a whole year's study to get the full picture of farmers' physical activity.

"The steps farmers are taking in June may not be the same amount of steps taken in December," he said.

"Forty three per cent of farmers are overweight compared to 36pc nationally, and 17pc of farmers are obese compared to 14pc, so farmers need to ensure that they are doing exercise outside of farming. If farmers are healthier there will be less accidents on farms, which is another major benefit."

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