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