A health and fitness program in the state’s North West has not only improved the wellbeing of members of the Lowan Group of brigades, it’s brought them closer together.
More than 25 members from Nhill, Broughton, Netherby, Lorquon, Winiam, Woorak, Yanac, Propodollah and Diapur have participated in a 12-week Fitness for Fireys program, completing weekly sessions covering cardio, toning, strength and flexibility.
After completing the program, the group reported an increase in overall fitness as well as weight loss, a reduction in waist measurement and a decrease in blood pressure.
Fitness for Fireys was inspired by the Fitness for Farmers, an initiative developed by the rural community of Winiam aimed at improving farmers’ mental and physical health.
It promotes the physical benefits of exercise, social interaction and the advantages of working out in a group. Workouts are led by local group fitness instructor Emma Dickinson.
In addition to weekly workouts the program includes baseline health checks conducted by community health nurses to monitor participant progress.
Although farmers are usually quite active, technological advancements and improvements to farming equipment means that many aren’t as active as they once were.
Living and working in smaller rural townships also often means they face isolation and lack of social engagement with their peers.
Lowan Group Officer Jo Ussing said the biggest change they noticed after completing Fitness for Fireys was improvement to overall flexibility.
“Most participants have physical farming jobs but when they started many couldn’t touch their toes - some were barely able to touch their knees,” Jo said.
“At the first session we did a baseline screening which included weight, waist measurement, flexibility measurement, blood pressure, perceived level of stress and a shuttle run fitness test.
“At the end of the 12-week program a second set of measurements showed a loss of weight, reduction in waist measurement and a decrease in blood pressure as well as an increase in both flexibility and fitness.”
But perhaps the greatest takeaway from the program was the camaraderie and teamwork that developed between the members of the different brigades.
“We are a small rural community with mostly long-term residents and even though most of the group members are known to each other, these classes have seen a strengthening of those relationships,” Jo said.
“You see it with workouts such as boxing or cardio games where the competitiveness and good-natured ribbing starts to come out.
“After initial hesitation you start seeing everyone really getting along.
“That’s when I think, these members have really got each other’s backs - and that’s going to count on the fireground.”
Author: Shaunnagh O'Loughlin