WITH seasonal conditions providing a challenge for many of SA's farmers, a focus on fitness is providing many producer-organised exercise groups with both physical and mental health benefits.
New groups are popping up across the state, giving farmers the motivation to work on their physical health, but also providing a place to temporarily take their mind off farm work.
While conditions are reasonable at Coonalpyn, local farmer Gavin Lutze has recently started a farm fitboot session.
Once a week on a Monday night, a group of the region's farmers swap work boots for sneakers, sweating it out in a one-hour fitness session at the community gym. The sessions have been popular, with 15 different farmers attending across the 12 weeks.
"Once you've finished playing footy or sport in country towns there isn't much to do to keep fit," Mr Lutze said.
"We've had a good response and have had ten along to most sessions."
Gavin and another Coonalpyn farmer and fitboot regular Richard Schilling, who also take part in a regular Friday morning farmer bike ride and coffee, agree that the sessions also represent a good chance to meet other farmers in the district and act as a valuable social catch-up.
Group fitness instructor Belinda Freund tries to cater the session to suit all fitness levels, with the workouts focused on improving cardiovascular endurance and core strength, rather than building muscle.
Coonalpyn farmer Steve Schilling said he had enjoyed the social aspect and motivation that came with the group exercise regime.
"I've gained a lot of fitness and flexibility," he said.
"Taking your mind off the farm for a while and just having a bit of a chat with each other is good as well."
With parts of SA experiencing ongoing drought, executive officer of Fat Farmers - an initiative encouraging farming families and rural communities to support each other while getting active - Sally Fisher said the social aspect of such programs was just as important as the physical side.
"Lots of farmers have talked about their physical parameters such as blood pressure and cholesterol coming down with regular exercise," she said.
Taking your mind off the farm for a while and just having a bit of a chat with each other is good as well.
"That ability to touch base with people regularly is just as important. Talking through any stresses or issues people have is very helpful, especially when going through tough times."
Fat Farmers has a network of 10 self-directed groups across the state with 250 members. Groups take part in all manner of activities from weekly fitness sessions to bushwalks and events like the City to Bay fun run.
"A number of farmers have said it helps them manage their farms better by having that positive mindset from exercise," Sally said. "A key to having a successful business is looking after both your physical and mental health."
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Fat Farmers has recently formed a group in Karoonda and is also hopeful of starting one in Bordertown.
Tamara Fletcher, who runs the community gym and Fat Farmers group at Karoonda, said farmers from their mid-20s to early-40s were taking part.
"The tough conditions have made it a hard time for Karoonda and everyone getting together once a week gives people a good opportunity to have a smile and a laugh," she said.
"It's something for people to look forward to and a good chance to get off the farm for just a little while.
"They might talk about farming, they might not. We just try to have as much fun as we can."
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