If you see Scot Benson running around his farm, it may not be because he's in a hurry.
"When I run, I can relax and get away from the world," says this Earlville, IL, livestock and crop producer. "For that time, at least, I can let my mind go blank."
After Benson finishes feeding cattle, he often changes into sweats and heads out for a 20- to 40- minute run. But he does it as much for the physical aspects as for the mental.
Regular exercise can accomplish both, says Dr. Laurel Rudolph, an urgent care specialist at the Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, WI. "It's certainly healthy for the body," she says. "And when people exercise they vent some of their stress."
But healthful exercise doesn't necessarily require long-distance running or time-consuming workouts.
"Many farmers do a fair amount of walking in their work, and that can help," says Rudolph. "The most recent studies from the American College of Sports Medicine indicate that 10 to 15 minutes of exercise at a time can add up in a day. It's not necessary to do 30 minutes or more of a sustained workout to get aerobic benefits."
Rudolph sees many farmers in her practice. "We know that farmers work long hours and can't always set aside time for regularly scheduled exercise," she says. "That's why it's good if they can get some physical activity during their workday."
Farmers tend to be in better physical condition than non-farmers. But as farm work becomes less physical, farmers need to make a greater effort to get exercise, says Rudolph.
Benson, 40, has been running since grade school and still averages three to four runs per week.
"I'd get out every day if time allowed," he says. "When the weather is bad I use a treadmill, but I prefer running."
In addition to feeding 8"3/21/00 10:52:09 AM","Inbound","email@example.com","firstname.lastname@example.org","5588","For Immediate Release" 00-1,000 cattle and raising a sizable acreage of corn, soybeans and hay, Benson helps coach the local high school track team. He says that's another welcome change of pace from daily farm work.
"When you get involved with something like that, you don't feel so boxed in by low prices and some of the other frustrations of farming."
Besides running, Benson tries to do back-strengthening exercises, especially during spring and fall when there are long days on the tractor.
"Tractor time is hard on the back," he says. "When there's a short break, I do some sit-ups. Strengthening the abdominal muscles helps strengthen the back."
Bob and Kay Diedrich, Dekalb, IL, frequently get exercise and unwind by dancing. They also walk.
"We try to go dancing every Saturday night," says Kay. "Often, we go with two other farm couples. We really enjoy that."
In addition, Kay usually walks up to four miles a day when weather permits. Bob joins her when he's not in the field. He also walks while scouting crops.
"I sometimes ride a bike," says Kay. "And we both use a treadmill when we can't get outside. It all helps."