Getting farmers fit: Jogging and the gym carry a ‘stigma’

Laura Tully leads a group of participants in a Fit Farmers programme session at Pádraig Pearse’s GAA club in Clooneen, Co Roscommon. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Laura Tully leads a group of participants in a Fit Farmers programme session at Pádraig Pearse’s GAA club in Clooneen, Co Roscommon. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

When Peter Naughton used to drive to the local filling station for his newspaper, he’d usually grab a breakfast roll as well.

The 55-year-old from Moore in Co Roscommon ate “an odd apple” but getting his recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables was never even a consideration. As for getting exercise, the dry-stock farmer says he used to think “the men in white coats would be called” if neighbours saw him out walking the roads, given there were always chores to be done on the farm.

Until the death of his mother last summer Naughton was her full-time carer. Because she hated being alone, opportunities to exercise were rare.

Peter Naughton said that as a result of the fitness programme his frying pan was now “redundant” except for when he makes an omelette . Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

“If I was only going to the shed she would want to come so I’d take the car and drive around to it. She would come with me if I was going down the field so we’d go in the car.”

Six weeks ago, Naughton and 24 neighbours signed up for Fit Farmers, a project started by Laura Tully, a nurse based in Athlone Institute of Technology, who is also a native of Moore and who decided in 2017 to help her neighbours get healthy.

Last weekend Naughton climbed Slieve Bloom. “I went up Slieve Bloom before but it was under car power, not Peter power,” he joked.

The farmer says his frying pan is now redundant except for when he makes an omelette, and pilates is one of his new favourite pastimes. In the six weeks he has lost more than eight kilos (18lbs), shed 10cm (four inches) off his waist and gone from “couch to 5k”, which he does in 43 minutes.

Funding

Tully believes rural people do not have the same access to health and well-being courses as their urban counterparts. She was thrilled when almost 200 people aged “from eight to 88” answered her call and joined the “Moore Movers” two years ago, but farmers were noticeable by their absence .

Determined to get them moving as well, she cajoled and scolded, got the blessing of the Irish Farmers’ Association, secured funding from Roscommon Sports Partnership and eventually recruited 25 men, aged from their mid-20s to their 70s.

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