With all the bending, lifting, and repetitive moves that farming demands, the career can exact a toll on a person’s body — young or old.
Pain might seem unavoidable, the inevitable cost of cultivating the land. However, there are ways to prevent long- and short-term injuries, in part through exercises that can be done while sitting in a tractor or a combine.
“When you’ve already worked 14 hours a day, you don’t want to work out. But there is a way to fit some exercises and stretching into your routine without having to go to the gym,” said Laura Akgerman, disability services coordinator for Ohio AgrAbility.
The program, which is offered by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), offers free assessments for people with disabilities, to help determine which kinds of assistive technology they might need.
When farmers sit idle in a tractor or other vehicle, they can use that time to stretch, just like people who work in offices can do from their desks, Akgerman said.
Attendees to this year’s Farm Science Review, set for Sept. 17–19, can find out more about this at the annual farm trade show, sponsored by CFAES, near London, Ohio. At FSR, AgrAbility staff are offering 11 a.m. daily sessions featuring tips on exercising and preventing injury. An occupational therapist and an exercise coordinator will be leading the sessions and answering questions.
“You don’t have to wear workout clothes. These exercises you can do in jeans and boots,” Akgerman said.
The routine will include stretches to reduce the odds that peoples’ backs, necks, and knees will rebel at the end of a long day on the farm. Participants will discover what they can do to support their backs and necks, and they’ll learn effective ways to carry, push, or pull equipment so they don’t suffer pain later on.
Not surprising to anyone who has worked on a farm, “a lot of farmers have back pain,” Akgerman said.
“If you have limited range of motion or it really hurts to do something, we’re going to show you how to modify not only the exercise you do, but how you do the work as well, to show you how you can use your body differently,” she said.
AgrAbility’s offerings at FSR will also include an exhibit of a garage/farm shop designed to accommodate a wheelchair. Visitors can also test out barn doors that open like automatic garage doors, and they can see an Action Trackchair, an all-terrain wheelchair, as well as an automated lift that allows someone in a wheelchair to get into a truck or other vehicle.
“All of these are about increasing independence and easing the strenuous aspects of farming,” Akgerman said.