Time to ponder rural Australia's weighty issue

Time to ponder rural Australia's weighty issue


Opinion
Long hours in the tractor or header cabin are not condusive to a health kick but rural Australians have to start finding ways to incorporate more exercise into their daily routine.

Long hours in the tractor or header cabin are not condusive to a health kick but rural Australians have to start finding ways to incorporate more exercise into their daily routine.

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The health problems that go with obesity are some of rural Australia's lesser highlighted issues. How can we beat the battle of the bulge?

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Have you ever been on a visit to the big smoke and had that sinking feeling that something is not quite right when you compare yourself to the person sitting next to on the train, at the footy or at the coffee shop?

It's not just the clothes, the RB Sellars instead of couture or the dirt under the fingernails. It's not just the lack of piercing and tatts or a Ned Kelly beard.

If you're like many of us it eventually dawns with a sinking feeling that, well frankly you've been in a fair bit better paddock than the majority of your city cousins..

At home it can be easy to be lulled into a false sense of security with people with similar habits, and waistlines, to ourselves and if you suck the beer gut in a bit and squint just right in the mirror and you just might be able to kid yourself you;re not in bad knick.

The truth, however, is that, as a demographic we're in bad need of a boot camp in regards to our eating habits and exercise regime.

Statistics show that the myth of the bronzed and muscled country Aussie, working hard physically on the land we hang our hat on is little more than a memory.

Figures from the National Rural Health Initiative reveal outer regional people are 1.6 times more likely to be obese than their urban counterparts.

It's a damning statistic, but once you unpack the causes it is clear to see how rural people can almost imperceptibly pack on the extra kilos.

For starters, while work in agriculture is no longer the back breaking labour that it once was, the hours are still intense.

Tasks such as tractor or sprayer work require long, sedentary hours that need the operator to remain alert and concentrating the whole time, but do precious little to work off the calorie and little time or inclination to exercise afterwards.

Upon finishing seeding at 2am in the morning it's a fair cop the operator isn't of a mind to bust out a 5km jog.

Service-wise there are also problems, both in terms of exercise facilities and food choices.

The average city worker can count on being able to access a healthy, quick lunch at the drop of a hat, a far cry from the cut lunch often taken by the farm sector, which more often than not resembles '1001 ways with heavily processed junk'.

It also works against getting the health kick going when the nearest gym is 100km away and the nearest physio to get your hamstrings right to run again is 200km.

Let's be clear however, - it's say we don't help ourselves. Alcohol consumption and smoking rates are way above the national average, while the average meal out at the local pub is also unlikely to tick too many health boxes.

Our distinctive country home cooking, too, is reflective of another time.

It has its roots in a time where farmers needed some heavy duty fuel for the day of hard yakka ahead, but while many still cook the recipes of their hard-working grandparents, a wonderful thing in many ways, the energy intake can be excessive for someone seated firmily on their bum for the majority of the day.

There's also the societal aspect to health, that being trim and taut is a result of vanity or a surfeit of time that could be better spent working.

It's true that one of the refreshing parts about living in the country is the lack of narcissistic self-focus and obsession with appearance and we'd be well off keeping it that way, but we have to start taking care of ourselves.

There are simply too many 45 year olds in country areas that are unhealthily heavy and starting to encounter diseases more typically seen in people a decade or more older.

We need to stop thinking of health and fitness as indulgences for those with the luxury of time on their hands and start working on incorporating into our daily routines.

You don't need to become a fitness fanatic to see the benefits either, simply tinkering with your diet or getting a few minutes a day of exercise in can be a massive boost, reducing the risk of everything to the obvious, such as heart disease right through to things you may not necessarily have considered, such as mental illness.

But how to get it done? Most people know the basics - that drinking, smoking and eating takeaway on a daily basis won't do you any favours.

But diet-wise, how many people take the time out to go through what they are eating and find out what they are putting into their bodies.

The amount of sugar, fat and salt in any number of processed foods from the supermarket is staggering and reading the fine print may alert you to the fact the so-called 'healthy option' may be anything but.

As primary producers it should be easy enough to keep the levels of processing as minimal as possible, support the local businesses such as the butcher, baker and green grocer and not only are you keeping local jobs but you're cutting out on the hidden rubbish that pads out so much of today's industrially manufactured food.

Exercise wise there are things that can be done even while working. The National Centre for Farmer Health has a series of exercises you can undertake on the tractor or the header, while other simple practices such as walking the couple of hundred metres from the farmhouse to the sheds all adds up over time.

It's that incidental walking that is a key fitness advantage for those in the city, used to walking down to the train station or having to park a reasonable distance from their destination, as opposed to the country sport of circling the main street until you find a park within two dors of the shop you need.

It's not an easy task, but the important thing is that we realise that we don't all have to convert to an all-juice diet or swear off the grog for eternity but that by simply tweaking some lifestyle choices where we can it is going to be a positive for us as a community.

The story Time to ponder rural Australia's weighty issue first appeared on Farm Online.

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