New ‘Fit Farmers’ sessions will roll out in Roscommon at Dysart community centre on Tuesday, November 2 from 7:00p.m-9:00p.m.

An innovative six-week lifestyle intervention specifically designed for farmers of all ages and abilities, the programme empowers and educates farmers to boost their overall health and wellbeing.

Applications for fully funded places are invited until midday on Monday, November 1.

Conscious of the growing body of evidence that identifies farmers as being at very high risk of numerous health issues, nurse Laura Tully was behind the roll out of ‘Fit Farmers’ in 2019.

Fit farmers

The programme, consisting of health promoting workshops and physical activity workouts, is delivered locally to farmers for two hours weekly at a time and venue convenient to them.

Workshops cover topics such as exercise, nutrition, heart health, sleep and stress control. The ‘farm-to-5K’ physical activity programme aims to improve fitness, strength, stamina, balance and coordination.

Participants are offered free health checks and a chartered physiotherapist provides a specifically tailored back and joint care programme for farmers as part of the roll out.

To date, supported by Roscommon Sports Partnership, 92 farmers have undertaken the programme throughout the county.

Results of programme

Laura Tully said she has seen outstanding results in terms of participants’ weight loss, increased strength, improved cardiovascular fitness, increased physical activity as well as positive gains in mental and social health.

Community sports development officer at Roscommon Sports Partnership, Damien Martin, said that the health profile of participants has been reflective of the health profile of farmers in Ireland, with cardiovascular and musculoskeletal issues being prevalent.

“Our programme seeks to address these specific issues and equip farmers with the tools to self-care or seek appropriate care,” he said.

The feedback from farmers and their families on completion of the programme has been wholly positive, according to Laura.

“Generally, once the initial trepidation about starting something new subsides, there is a convivial atmosphere and a great sense of camaraderie and farmers exercise and socialise together.,” she said.

“Farmers tend to be surprised initially when they learn about portion sizes and how to read nutritional labels. They always convey how helpful that practical knowledge is in supporting them to make healthier choices beyond the programme.

“That is the essence of what my workshops are all about; practical, sensible swaps and solutions,” Laura said.

Highly lauded

The ‘Fit Farmers’ initiative has attracted national attention since its inaugural programme in 2019, with many participants highlighting the difference it made to their lives.

It was highly commended at the national final of the Age Friendly Ireland Awards in 2019.

Laura is proud to have witnessed the emergence of such a strong emphasis on farmer health and wellbeing in recent years. “Several counties across Ireland are now delivering targeted interventions to farmers and farm families.

“Funding these evidence-based interventions is government money well spent, as these projects have the potential to significantly reduce the substantial medical and non-medical burdens, and economic costs associated with chronic illness and disorders,” she said.

“Farmers’ lives are enhanced, improved and, in some cases, saved. Farmers deserve great credit for leading their peers in this regard and for stepping forward to prioritise themselves and their health,” she concluded.