Farming activities and carrying and lifting: the Agricultural Health Study

J Phys Act Health. 2012 Jan;9(1):39-47. doi: 10.1123/jpah.9.1.39.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Occupational Health*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Spouses
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Weight Loss*