10 Tips to Keep Drivers Healthy on the Road
Commercial trucking can be one of the most difficult jobs, spending days or weeks traveling on the open road. This isolation can have harmful physical and mental effects on a driver’s health and well-being. The following ten tips can help combat the negative effects of trucking.
1. Join a wellness program
Wellness programs have proven to be an effective method of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. With programs such as health coaching, nutritionists, biomedical screenings, and tobacco cessation counseling, wellness programs provide support and structure for truck drivers to form healthy habits or reduce the effects of chronic illnesses. Check with your employer or insurance company to see if a wellness program is available to join.
2. Set specific and realistic goals
Looking to lose a few pounds? Trying to get a chronic illness under control through diet and exercise? It’s important to start by setting realistic and measurable goals that takes into consideration activity levels and diet. It’s important to avoid vague goals and be specific in what you want to achieve. A plan to lose 25 pounds in six months will have more success than a goal to just lose weight.
3. Explore fitness options
Driving for multiple hours with a small window of opportunity for eating and exercise makes it difficult to commit to a consistent plan. Some trucking companies have recognized this and have started adding walking trails and fitness centers at their terminals. Other drivers have bought bicycles to take advantage of “ride and roll” areas where they can park and get exercise. And new websites have dedicated tips on how drivers can use their truck to stay fit, including 17 ways to exercise with a truck.
4. Find a workout buddy
Maintaining a workout routine is hard to do without driving ten hours a day much less while on the open road. However, working out with a friend provides structure and healthy competition. A workout buddy can also help truckers stick to exercising every day. A workout buddy may not be right there beside you, virtual encouragement and accountability can be good motivation for those who need a push in the right direction. And man’s best friend can also be a good companion who enjoys frequent walks too.
5. Meal plan around driving routes
Meal planning is an effective way to stay on track with counting calories. A majority of truckers eat on the run and that can make meal planning difficult. It isn’t practical to prepare everything you eat on the truck but stocking healthier snack options that provide energy helps to reduce cravings for junk food. A majority of restaurants offer reduced calorie options but smartphone applications, like MyFitnessPal, and GPS can help plan food choices around your driving route.
6. Track your progress
After setting realistic goals, begin recording your workouts, caloric intake, and your mood for the day. Tracking your progress can be an inspiration to keep pushing toward your ultimate goal of a healthier lifestyle. MyFitnessPal allows you to log your exercises while tracking your progress online and through the smartphone application.
7. Keep up with doctor appointments
There are links between driving for long, sedentary periods of time and chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease or seasonal sicknesses like the flu. By staying current with doctor’s appointments, you may be able to head off an illness before it worsens. Yearly vaccinations can also help prevent an illness from affecting you while on the road.
8. Develop a stable sleep schedule
Studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concluded that sleep deprivation factors into almost 100,000 vehicle accidents and 1,550 fatalities a year. The human body needs between 7 – 8 hours of rest a day which makes sleeping very important to your overall well-being. Sleep deprivation affects cognitive abilities and emotions. If prolonged, it can lower the body’s defenses and make you vulnerable to chronic illnesses. It can be a risk factor for obesity, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, and sleep apnea.
9. Increase mental stimulation
Truck driving doesn’t allow for educational pursuits, but mental stimulation is just as critical to the body as physical fitness. Guzzling sugary or energy drinks causes your body to crash and fatigue will set in. Listening to audiobooks, podcasts, or to learning a new language, are a few ways to keep those brain waves moving and you awake while driving.
10. Socialize with family and friends
Commercial truck driving can mean days, weeks, and months away from loved ones. In a study of risk factors for depression in truck drivers, the rate of depression is 13.6 percent and associated with substance abuse and alcoholism. Drivers are encouraged to maintain contact with family and friends to lessen the feelings of loneliness and isolation. Certain trucking companies have approved companions, even pets, to come along for the ride.
For more information on health-related trends in the trucking industry, download our whitepaper: "DOT Regulations: Addressing the rapid rate of change in the DOT-regulated world"