Farmers launch online group exercise program to stave off loneliness, depression

Farmers launch online group exercise to stave off loneliness in the age of coronavirus

Life & Style
STAYING STRONG: Marliese Heffernan. Picture: Rachel McDonald

STAYING STRONG: Marliese Heffernan. Picture: Rachel McDonald

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Farmers are finding creative ways to work up a sweat with friends in the age of coronavirus

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Farmers are finding creative ways to work up a sweat with friends in the age of coronavirus, launching online group exercise classes in a bid to stay active and stave off feelings of loneliness.

The not-for-profit Active Farmers have started moving their group exercise classes to the cyber space, after their regular group sessions were banned and communities entered lockdown around the country.

Active Farmers acting CEO and Junee farmer Marliese Heffernan said the social isolation had hit even harder for farmers, who already found themselves isolated at the best of times.

"The idea was born out of the concern for the isolation and poor mental health outcomes for farmers and their communities, so having these classes was a way of improving social connectedness in isolated areas," Mrs Heffernan said.

"If we can run the classes interactively online, then hopefully our farming communities are still going to gain the physical and mental health benefits from regular exercise."

During the livestreams farmers are encouraged to get creative and grab anything lying around the farm - stray bricks, washing baskets, bags of rice - to use as impromptu weights.

Mrs Heffernan teaches two group exercise classes herself, and she said many of the farmers she taught had forged fast friendships while sweating it out together.

For that reason, Mrs Heffernan said she was keen to keep the connections going to bring together otherwise isolated communities.

"A lot of these small farming villages once had a corner store and a pub and maybe a football field with a team, but now a lot of these farming communities are losing these goods and services," Mrs Heffernan said.

"These classes have been a really good way to bring people together."

The idea was the brainchild of farmer Ginny Stevens, who was alarmed by the levels of depression and high death rates among farming communities such as hers.

Mrs Stevens said her end-goal was not just to promote physical fitness in farmers, but to boost the overall levels of wellbeing for farming communities who are doing it tough.

"We do everything from health related workshops, nutrition, mindfulness, mental health first aid," Mrs Stevens said.

"We want to keep the communities engaged, and we can still set up new communities online even if we can't meet face-to-face."

The story Farmers launch online group exercise program to stave off loneliness, depression first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.

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