Often, truck driving becomes not just a job but a lifestyle. The days are long, you spend most of your time sitting, and as for diet, fast food is easy, accessible and, well… fast.
Finding ways to stay fit and eat healthy may seem like too big a challenge for some. Staying healthy on the road is not just about starting a diet, it’s about changing your lifestyle. 82.5% of truck drivers are overweight or obese in Australia and 79.2% have low physical inactivity, so here are some tips to beat the stats while on the road.
When driving you sit, all day. The metabolism of a driver over a 24hr period stays pretty much flat, because for about 23 of those hours, at least for a long haul driver, drivers are sedentary. So, how can you exercise while on the road?
- 15 minute intense workout. Time is one of the biggest challenges (and excuses) of exercising while on the road. Spending up to 14 hours a day on the road doesn’t exactly provide a lot of spare time for the gym. Getting your heart rate up and exercising vigorously for 15 minutes has flow-on effects for both your physical and mental health.
- Exercise before you start driving. Now, if you prefer working out at night or during your breaks that’s fine! However, driving all day can be exhausting and break time is limited. Doing your 15 minute workout before you get into the cab not only gets it out of the way, but starts your metabolism and gives you energy for the rest of the day.
- Keep work out equipment in your cab. You don’t have to go to a gym, just keep some weights, an exercise mat, resistance bands or a skipping rope in you truck. In fact, there are tonnes of workouts that you can try with no equipment at all!
- Exercise in your cab. You may not think there are many exercises you can do while sitting behind the wheel. And while this may be true, I thought I’d list the few that you can do. I can confirm that while writing this I tested them out and I actually did feel a bit better after.
- Ab crunches - You simply squeeze your abdominal muscles and hold. That’s it. Do a couple reps of this waiting a traffic lights, for the length of a song, whatever and you’re on your way to building a better core.
- Shoulder rolls - Don’t take your hands off the wheel while moving to try this, but you can give it ago at traffic lights. It does release some tension and helps if you’re a sloucher.
- Hand stretches - this one might not be a real muscle builder, but even something this simple can release tension.
- Do yoga! It may not a form of exercise you’ve ever considered, but the best thing about yoga is that you don’t need any equipment, it’s quick, easy and can have just as much of a positive impact on your mental health as it can on you physical (plus, I promise, wearing yoga pants is not a requirement).
Probably one of the hardest things to keep control of while you’re on the road. Not only are there limited roadside options, you may not have an opportunity to prepare meals yourself and you have little break time to find healthy alternatives to your standard fast-food chain.
- Drink water. And the award for the most repeated health tip goes to… Staying hydrated is just a general health tip and is probably the easiest of everything on this list to do. All you got to do is fill up a water bottle and drink it through out the day. An extra tip though is to switch out any drinks with a high sugar content (soft drinks, juice, etc.) with water.
- Meal prep. This may be challenging if you can’t go home everyday and you don’t have access to a kitchen, but tons of places, including grocery stores, offer pre-made salads and meals that are significantly healthier and clean, that you can grab in advance or on the go.
- Snack. You may not think snacking is a good thing, and it’s not if you’re snacking on the wrong things, but if you snack throughout the day on things like fruit, vegetables, and nuts (all in moderate amounts) you can starve off cravings and avoid bingeing at the end of the day.
- Don't smoke. Ok, so this doesn’t really fit into eating or drinking but it’s still a good point. If you smoke quit, or at least try to reduce the amount you smoke.
Mental health might not really be something you consider or think about but being on the road can be stressful, lonely and monotonous which can have an effect on your mental health.
- Entertain yourself while driving. Whether it’s a podcast, audiobook, music, learning a language or all of the above, sitting alone in silence staring at asphalt all day would drive any one crazy, so finding something to keeping your mind active while on the road is important.
- Keep in touch with friends and family. If you’re a long haul driver, you may be away from home for extended periods of time. To avoid feeling disconnected or lonely, call, FaceTime, text, or whatever the people in your life (just don’t do it while you’re actually driving).
- Bring a hobby with you. Hobbies are good for relaxing and distressing. It might be something as simple as reading but taking a mental break from the road in addition to a physical break is beneficial in keeping you mentally refreshed and ready to get back to work, instead of feeling like you were never off.
- Sleep. If you don’t think a lack of sleep has an effect on mental health clearly you’ve never tired to function on only 2 hours of sleep. Managing fatigue is one of the big concerns regarding commercial drivers. Fatigue is one of the top 3 reasons behind road accidents and sleep is essential for good health. Drivers should plan for enough sleep and take rest breaks if they start noticing any signs of fatigue.
- Meditate. You may lump this one with yoga in the “Things I’m never going to do” section of your brain, but to meditate you don’t have to do anything. Literally. Nothing. It could be as simple as sitting, closing your eyes and concentrating on breathing. Meditating and practicing mindfulness for even 3 minutes a day can reduce stress, help you concentrate and improve your mood and outlook.
Health can be a disregarded topic while on the road and easily pushed aside. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally can not only help you work better, it could help you live longer. Remember, yoga is for everyone.
If you want to know more about how to stay safe on the road, check out our fatigue management guide!
Tess is our in-house design savant, fashion leader and a pretty darn good writer. Whether it’s creating digital designs, blogging about learning science or rocking a neck-scarf, Tess can pull it off.
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