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J Phys Act Health. 2012 Jan;9(1):39-47.

Farming activities and carrying and lifting: the Agricultural Health Study.

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Dept of Public Health Sciences, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, NC, USA.



Heavy carrying and lifting (HCL) is a common activity among farmers that may be related to health. The aim of this study was to examine HCL as a proxy for occupational physical activity (PA) among farm residents. The secondary objective was to evaluate PA based on HCL.


Data from 21,296 farmers and 30,951 spouses in the Agricultural Health Study examined the relationship between HCL and farm activities and individual/farm characteristics. HCL was categorized as ≥ 1 or < 1 hours per day. The association between HCL and farm activities (15 for farmers; 16 for spouses) and individual/farm characteristics was examined using adjusted logistic regression. To evaluate PA, we created a PA activity index using metabolic equivalents for HCL, and compared PA weekly averages with national guidelines.


In adjusted results, most farm activities were significantly associated with HCL. Based on HCL, farmers had a median of 1.5 hours and spouses 0.5 hours of vigorous or muscle-strengthening PA per day. Most farmers (94%) and about 60% of spouses meet or exceed 2008 national guidelines for vigorous or muscle-strengthening PA.


Findings suggest the HCL measure may be useful as a PA metric in future studies of occupational PA among farm residents.

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