The power of rural health in Ohio

By Dee Jepsen and Laura Akgerman

National Rural Health Day is Thursday Nov. 19, 2020. This day highlights the unique challenges rural communities face when it comes to health services and healthy people.

Focusing on the Power of Rural is the theme for this year’s campaign

Ohio has a State Office of Rural Health (SORH), which serves as the anchor of information and support for rural communities. They advocate strengthening health care delivery systems through their resources and programs, and encourage recruitment and retention of health professionals in rural areas. Visit their website at

In addition to the good work done by SORH, Ohioans can connect with other rural health advocates and providers by joining The Ohio Rural Health Association, an advocacy organization which works closely with SORH, and offers resources, educational and networking opportunities for ORHA members. ORHA’s missions is to enhance the health and well-being of the state’s rural citizens and communities. For more information, or to join ORHA please visit their website at

Our bodies are one comprehensive system, where physical health and mental well-being are strongly intertwined. We can take care of our body through exercise, sleep and diet.

Physical activity

Exercise and physical activity helps to combat sarcopenia, or muscle mass loss related to age. Sarcopenia can decrease the body by 0.5% to 8% per decade between ages 40 and 70. For seniors older than 70 years, it is possible to lose muscle mass at 15% for every decade of life. While there are many factors that contribute to this muscle mass loss, inactivity and reduced physical exercise is thought to be the leading factor.

For those overwhelmed with the idea of adding exercise and fitness into their daily routine, focus first by simply adding more movement throughout the day. Movement can be as simple as just getting up and walking around, stretching, or doing light tasks. 

The Ohio AgrAbility program has developed stretches to use while on the farm, in the garden or backyard to help prepare for physical labor. See our Fitness with Farm Life resources at


The importance of sleep is supported by research. Our bodies, when not given the appropriate amount of rest periods, begin to tell us through symptoms of pain.

Sleep, a major form of rest, has a positive relationship with increased physical activity. When we expend more energy in the day, better sleep is often to follow. Similarly, when a good night’s rest happens, the body is more able to engage in physical activity the following day. Sleep affects every muscle and organ of our bodies, right down to the cellular level. Getting adequate sleep allows our bodies to restore strength and functionality to our productive lives.


Nutrition plays a major role in overall health, weight management and inflammation. Managing daily diets and losing weight can decrease the load placed on joints, which can alleviate pain. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet has also been found to reduce pain symptoms, as inflammation throughout the body is decreased.

Stress and mental well-being

Taking care of our mental wellness is as much a priority, if not more than, our physical health. Meditation, relaxation, exercise, and breathing exercises are research-based methods of reducing stress. Similar to physical exercise, choose the techniques that are right for you. For some, this might be taking the time to indulge in a favorite hobby or confiding in a close friend.

When situations grow larger than we can manage, it is okay to reach out for professional care. Just like finding the right medical doctor, there are resources to help find a mindfulness doctor. Each county in the state of Ohio has an office of Mental Health. Use this website to find resources in your county: National resources are also available by texting the word ‘HOPE’ to 741741.

Dee Jepsen, Associate Professor, can be reached at 614-292-6008 or

Laura Akgerman, Disability Services Coordinator of Ohio AgrAbility, and the Secretary of the Ohio Rural Health Association, and can be reached at 614-292-0622 or This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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