During the busy season, don't forget to put health on your 'to-do' list

Amber O'Brien
Making healthy choices for the body may not always be at the top of your list when working 18 hours a day.

While soil health improvement has been a growing subject in the farming industry, many growers and operators forget that their own health is more important than their soils for their farms and businesses to function at their fullest potential.

During the busy seasons of planting, harvesting, and manure hauling, making healthy choices for the body may not always be at the top of everyone’s list when working 18 hour days.

To bring things into perspective, here are some statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health:

  • seven in ten long-haul truck drivers are obese (2x U.S. worker); they are twice as likely to smoke compared to the U.S. worker, twice as likely to have diabetes, and three out of four drivers do not get the recommended amount of physical activity. F
  • Farmers and equipment operators may not be long-haul truck drivers, but the work hours in a tractor cab are comparable.

There are myths about healthy food options being too limited for on-the-go situations, or that healthy food is more expensive.

Other common causes for making unhealthy choices include thinking that there is no time for physical activity, or that resorting to smoking and energy drinks is the only option to stay awake during the long work day. Below are some helpful facts and tips to take into consideration when heading into the busy seasons throughout the year.

Some physical activity is better than none

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, physical activity improves sleep, enhances alertness, improves insulin sensitivity, and reduces stress and anxiety.

Whether you’re waiting for the merger tractor to get a few more acres ahead, or you’re waiting for the next field to open up to apply manure, you can get your blood circulating and energy boosted through exercise.

Check tires on the equipment and clean off the lights and reflector tape. Exercises such as planks, squats, and jumping jacks require no special equipment and can be done just about anywhere. Safety should be considered first when choosing an area to exercise.

Before bed, avoid the following:

  • Heavy, spicy meals
  • Liquids, especially caffeine or alcohol
  • Nicotine and other stimulants
  • Light exposure from television or electronics

Eat a well-balanced diet on-the-go. Eating a well-balanced diet has short and long term positive effects on the body. It increases energy and prevents health problems down the road. It is also beneficial to eat smaller meals more often to help steady blood sugar levels.

Here are some tips from the USDA Choose My Plate for an on-the-go lifestyle:

  • Make your own trail mix (unsalted nuts, seeds, dried fruit, popcorn)
  • Portion snack foods (prep ahead with baggies/containers)
  • Combine food groups (apples and peanut butter)
  • Bring ready-to-eat snacks (banana, yogurt, carrots)
What does water do for you? Turns out a lot.

Drink water

With so many options of beverages available, it can be easy to look past just plain water. However, water is the key ingredient in our bodies and must be present for our organs to function.

According to, the brain and heart are composed of 73 percent water. Other organs such as the lungs, muscles, and kidneys have even higher percentages. The illustration show just how necessary water is for the body to perform everyday tasks.

Choosing to drink water over soft drinks and energy drinks will improve your body’s energy and function level over longer periods of time.

For more resources on making healthy choices for your busy schedule, visit the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or the Department of Health and Human Services.   

Amber O'Brien

Amber O'Brien is an agriculture educator with the University of Wisconsin Madison Division of Extension in Calumet County

UW Extension