Learning to move correctly is a key to preventing shearing injuries, says movement, biomechanics and performance coach Laura Hancock, of Wellington.

''Prevention is better than cure,'' Ms Hancock said.

She was speaking about biomechanics and injury prevention in the shearing industry during the National Rural Health Conference in Auckland earlier this month.

Formerly from Oxfordshire, Ms Hancock first became a personal trainer, then began to look at how to improve athletes' performance in sport through enhancing movement function.

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She said she was not a physiotherapist.

Ms Hancock has worked with equestrians, including many in the New Zealand Eventing high performance development squad, and also runs exercise and biomechanic workshops for shearers, farmers, stock truck drivers and even rodeo enthusiasts, teaching them to use exercises that enhance their movement and function, as well as reduce injuries.

''My aim is to be helping prevent injuries, and educating people about how to look after themselves in order to reduce aches and pains, ward off injury and improve performance.''

She said studies had shown that many shearers could be compared to many elite level athletes and that shearing was one of the most physically demanding occupations in the world today with fluid loss being similar to that of elite marathon runners.

The daily energy expenditure of an average shearer has been calculated to be more than 5000 kilocalories a day.

''The endurance and stamina needed for a full eight or nine-hour day in a woolshed is quite astounding, even before contemplating the muscular and neural strain put upon shearers bodies by undergoing such long hours in biomechanical positions, which are particularly stressful upon their bodies.

''By encouraging shearers to look after themselves on a daily basis, it will add longevity to their careers.

''I am looking at taking a workshop to the South Island,'' she said.

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In addition, she has looked at how exercise can help mental health, including preventing depression.

-By Yvonne O'Hara

Southern Rural Life