• Loddon Herald

Strengthening rural minds

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

UPDATE July 15: Due to COVID-19 Lockdown 5.0, Sunday's Run for Resilience has been postponed. New dates to be advised.

RURAL community engagement is helping develop an improved sense of determination and confidence.

A new report by the Australia Institute for Active Farmers, the national group with a Loddon presence, also found engaged rural people used that confidence and determination to manage the changes and ups-and-downs in their lives.

“(This) suggests that the Active Farmers program is contributing to their adaptability,” the report said.

As the Loddon prepares for the Active Farmers’ Run for Resilience on Sunday, the Australia Institute report has identified the benefits of participation in this region’s program - one of only two in Victoria - and its links with physical and mental health. The evaluation report follows a study involving Active Farmers’ program participants across Australia.

Key data includes that 98.1 per cent of respondents scoring their mood at least a four out of five after attending an Active Farmers group or event “whilst 87.3 per cent experienced an improvement in their general mood”.

“The most common factors contributing to improvement in mood were regular physical activity, regular social connection, and taking time out,” the report said.

Feelings of perseverance, adaptability, determination, optimism and self-esteem are also boosted.

The impacts for participants on their day-to-day life include greater happiness, positivity and confidence, more energy during the day, finding work easier and feeling more motivated.

The report also said people who participated in activities “consistently noted the benefits of participating in the Active Farmers program for their day-to-day, and long term mood.

“This was attributed strongly to not only undertaking regular physical exercise in the group but also to the opportunity to take time out of their normal routine and to meet up with other people.

“Participants identified that the groups gave people the opportunity to come together, train and share what they were going through, which often made them feel less alone.

“The majority of participants are making wellbeing changes and seeking to maintain them, which speaks to their sense of perseverance and determination. Participants are more motivated and determined on a day-to-day basis, to exercise and improve, and to achieve the goals they set for themselves.

“Self-esteem was a common theme within the data – participants highlighted that their self-esteem improved and stabilised in relation to their capacity for exercise and fitness, their body image, and general confidence.

“It was evident that the changes in their confidence was an important benefit for participants and encouraged them to work towards their fitness goals, try new things, and interact with new people,” the report said. However, it highlighted the need for more men to be involved in rural community-based programs with participation levels at just 25 per cent.

The evaluation sought to understand the impacts of the Active Farmers program on its participants in terms of improved physical and mental wellbeing, social connection with communities and overall community resilience.

“Noting the long-term nature of these impacts and the relatively short period of time Active Farmers has been operating, the evaluation specifically focused on indicators that would point towards achievement of these long-term outcomes,” the report said.

Active Farmers is a not-for-profit, public health charity with a mission to improve the physical and psycho-social wellbeing and community resilience of farming communities across Australia.

Sunday’s Run for Resilience at Bridgewater - the 25km course starts in Inglewood - is bringing people together to connect, promoting phsyical and mental health in Loddon communities.

The Loddon Herald is a sponsor of Run for Resilience.

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