Chris Bennett: Feel no guilt about being off farm to exercise

As combine wheels begin to turn and working hours increase, it gets harder to prioritise looking after our physical health.

You could be excused for thinking that, by working in agriculture, you probably get enough daily exercise without even trying.

But with farms becoming more mechanised, and time spent behind a computer increasing, are you really doing enough?

Climbing down the six steps of the combine to receive your afternoon tea doesn’t really cut it.

I’m not suggesting that when wheat is flowing in at 14% we should drop everything and kick a ball around, but we should try and keep physical exercise as a high priority.

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About the author

Chris Bennett
Growing up on a mixed arable and beef farm in Lincolnshire, Chris studied physics at Oxford University before deciding to return to farming. The 28-year-old has a graduate diploma in agriculture and is farming in Wakanui, on the Canterbury Plains of New Zealand.
Read more articles by Chris Bennett

The NHS recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise every week, ideally exercising every day.

There are all sorts of medical benefits – reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes, certain cancers and a reduced risk of depression. If exercise was a pill, we would all be taking it.

I’ve always admired farmers with the drive to run laps of their fields and flip tractor tyres in their back garden.

But I find that it is easier to motivate myself and maintain a long-term habit of exercising by being part of a sports team.

Working and living on a farm is isolating, and often socialising is with other farmers, talking about farming.

While immersing yourself in the world of agriculture is great, it is refreshing to get off the farm and interact with people who have a different focus.

My sport has always been football. It can be difficult to leave the farm because of an often-unsubstantiated guilt about the jobs that need doing.

But we shouldn’t feel guilty, and having the structure and accountability that being part of a team brings can make this easier.

There is a responsibility that comes from needing to show up to a training session or match for your teammates.


Applications for Britain’s Fittest Farmer are now open. While becoming Britain’s Fittest Farmer may be out of reach for many, being a fitter farmer is something we can all achieve.