All year long, you invest time and energy thinking about the health of your soil and
crops. You check your equipment carefully and keep it in great working order. But smart growers think about their own health as well — because if you’re not in good shape, you can’t do your best work.
Taking good care of your body and brain should be job one for any grower through the busy season, says Dr. Charles Samuels, medical director at the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary, AB.
Samuels started his medical career in Vulcan, a rural community located in the heart of southern Alberta’s grain and cattle country, where he treated many growers with health problems like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. While genetics plays a role in many diseases, lifestyle choices are a significant risk factor for many people.
Many people overlook the critical health value of sleep, Samuels says. And importantly for growers operating heavy machinery, lack of sleep is a safety issue as well as a health issue.
“Farmers accept a level of cognitive functioning that is far below normal. If you showed them how impaired they were, they would be shocked,” Samuels says.
Tip: The National Sleep Foundation says adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Schedule sleep during the busy season
Samuels says growers can benefit from sleep research done with shift workers. During regular schedules, aim for eight hours of sleep each night. During your busiest times, ensure you get at least five hours sleep each night, but look for ways to get closer to eight, including naps and staggering your team’s schedules.
- Turn screens off by 8pm.
- Budget one- to two-hours to wind down before bed.
- Work in 30-minute naps to help manage sleep deficits during busy times.
Eating healthy food ensures your body has fuel to function at top levels, says Laurel Leuschen, a registered dietitian with Saskatchewan’s LiveWell Diabetes Program. “If you don’t feed your body well, you won’t have the ability to concentrate, and that puts you at risk for accidents to occur in the same way a sleep deficit does.”
Prep your meals
- Cut-up fruits and vegetables into ready-to-eat portions.
- Get a cooler and ice packs ready to go the night before.
- Don’t keep unhealthy, tempting foods in your house.
- Packaged food delivers quick meals, just watch out for high salt and sugar content.
- Avoid sugary drinks like pop and juice—choose water or a no-sugar drink.
Tip: Read labels carefully on packaged food, and make sure you pay attention to serving sizes.
Exercise to manage stress
Farming can be a very physical occupation—but not always; it can foster repetitive stress injuries and ignore key muscles. Doctors recommend a minimum of 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise, five to seven days a week.
- Track your physical activity to ensure you’re fitting exercise into your daily routine.
- If your activities don’t include aerobic exercise (that gets your heart rate up), find 15 to 30 minutes to take a walk.
- Use walking time to connect with friends or family, or destress from a busy day.
Exercise is one of the best stress relievers there is—so try to find time for it each day to protect your health.