Farming is the most dangerous occupation in the country. Hobby farming doesn’t make it less dangerous. It’s important to be physically fit to keep you safe doing the work you love.
I was 48 years old when my now ex-husband and I started our hobby farm raising registered beef cattle breeding stock. We were both fit (although overweight), but we could manage 50-pound bags of feed and 70-pound square bales of hay, assist with calving, walk miles to find missing animals and work cattle for vaccinations without too much physical strain.
We both worked full time off the farm. During the winter I often complained that I didn’t see my cattle in daylight from Sunday afternoon until the following Saturday morning.
My doctor kept telling me I needed to do exercises, but I replied I spent a full hour or more each day taking care of my farm and cattle herd. I walked a lot between pastures and the barns, and lifted hay bales and bags of grain. I climbed on and off my tractor and got lots of stretching, pulling netting off 600 pound round bales.
Work out? I worked out, I assured him.
He always agreed I was active. But he also insisted I needed an exercise program, such as weight lifting or a regular exercise class, to stay strong and healthy going forward.
Read more: “What if one of us gets hurt?”
I resisted his advice for several more years and ended up having a partial knee replacement. The surgery was a major turning point. Age caught up with me fast. The recovery was much longer than I’d expected. My posture and gait were bad, my balance was way off and my muscle strength was half what it had been.
After the knee surgery I spent three months in physical therapy strengthening my knee and leg. I let the therapist know from the beginning that I raised beef cattle and I wanted to get fit enough to continue working my animals.
We worked almost entirely on my lower body and made very good progress. At the same time, I felt I needed some upper body work. I found weight lifting and exercise videos for people over 50 on YouTube and started training my upper body at home.
I also lost more than 50 pounds.
Now at age 70 I feel better than I have in 10 years. Right here on the farm, I perform some structured exercises every day for 15 to 20 minutes, including some light weight lifting. My overall strength is twice what it was two years ago. My posture, gait and balance are good enough that I feel confident in continuing to care for my livestock.
My Farm Workout
Not all exercises are right for every person. You definitely want to get your doctor’s OK before starting any exercise program.
Here’s my five favorite farm fit exercises performed outdoors in just 15 minutes. I always warm my core first by stretching my arms above my head 10 times each arm, then twisting gently while raising arms side to side 10 times.
- Barn Wall Pushups: 15 pushups, minimum two sets. Good for upper and lower body.
- Squats: 15 squats, at least three sets. These really warm you up on a cold day.
- Prone Hip Extensions (bent over with flat back and holding on to a pipe gate): 15 lifts each leg for three sets. Firms up your glutes and keeps hips mobile.
- Heel Raises (holding onto pipe gate): 10 raises for 3 sets. Strengthens shins and ankles.
- Standing Leg Lifts (hanging on to fence post): 10 lifts front, 10 lifts side, 10 lifts back diagonal. Works abs at the same time.