Getting fit on the road

 An in-cab exercise system can help drivers stay fit by providing suspension training in and around the cab. The FIT system from Freightliner can attach inside the sleeper.
An in-cab exercise system can help drivers stay fit by providing suspension training in and around the cab. The FIT system from Freightliner can attach inside the sleeper.

Truck drivers are notorious for their condition. And not in a good way. A 2014 report presented at the 93rd Annual Meeting Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Analysis, Research, and Technology Forum found that drivers are more than twice as likely to be obese as the general population, and there are a number of other health risks drivers face.

The survey, conducted for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health with partial funding from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation and titled the “National Survey of Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury, interviewed 1,670 drivers and compared their answers to the 2010 general population. When compared, the results were staggering. Long-haul truck drivers’:

  • Obesity is twice as high (69% vs. 31%)
  • Morbid obesity is twice as high (17% vs. 7%)
  • Current cigarette smoking is more than double (51% vs. 19%)
  • Self-reported diabetes is elevated (14% vs. 7%)
  • Over twice as many drivers are not covered by health insurance or a health care plan (38% vs. 17%)
  • A lower percentage of drivers perceived their health status as excellent, very good, or good (84% vs. 94%).

The survey also found that 54% of all truck drivers have one or more of these risk factors: hypertension, smoking, obesity. And 9% have all three.

The statistics are not good. So how can drivers turn the health tide?

There are many resources available to drivers – some through carriers themselves, and others on the web. The best advice, though, comes from Men’s Health, which advises drivers to find a way to be active at least 15 minutes a day.

We have collected some of the best tips from the web on how to do just that, especially when your job is dependent on sitting in a seat and focusing on a road for hours on end.

Rolling Strong, a driver wellness company, recommends a list of cardio exercises drivers can do, including brisk walking, yoga or even washing your truck. Jogging, jumping rope and hiking are other activities that can be done when you are out of hours to drive.

For those that want to maintain muscle, some truck stops are now offering exercise equipment, but a membership to a national fitness chain can be another option. If you don’t have access to gym equipment, Live Strong offers some muscle-building techniques that don’t require equipment. These include abdominal crunches and planks.

Live Strong suggests tightening your abdominal muscles and holding them for extended periods of time, such as the length of a song or at a stop light. Repeat those regularly. Planks can be performed nearly anywhere there is room, including the back of a sleeper cab. Place your forearms and hands onto the ground with your palms facing downward, Live Strong says, and kick back your legs so that you are placing your weight on your toes. Hold your body straight for 30 seconds.

If you are used to using tension equipment, there are systems available that can be used on the road. One of those is the TRX suspension system. Developed by former Navy Seal Randy Hetrick, the TRX says it provides a total body workout and can be set up anywhere, including attaching to a truck as long as the attachment point is at least 7 feet off the ground and strong enough to support a person’s body weight.

Suspension training uses a person’s body weight as the resistance, giving the body the tension a larger, physical piece of equipment would. Suspension exercises can include incline presses, single leg squats, lunges, flyes and tricep presses.

An article written by Derek McClain from the Healthy Trucker for the St. Christopher’s Trucking Fund adds the traditional push-up, sit-up and dips to the list. Dips are when the driver uses something to lower his body weight by bending at the elbow, being sure to keep the body upright to maximize tricep work. By widening the arms, you can add a chest workout. McClain suggests using tires or the front seats for the workout.

For those drivers who need a little bit of coaching, there are apps available to do just that. Siphiwe Baleka, who is the founder of Fitness Trucking LLC and serves as the driver health and fitness coach at Prime Inc., offers the Active Trucker app.

Active Trucker is a free app and once downloaded, the driver can purchase a fitness program. The program coaches drivers through a daily workout, showing them how to perform the exercises.

There are plenty of other resources available for truck drivers looking to improve their health as well, from online tips to apps – typing “exercises for truck drivers” into Google returns over 650,000 results. Many companies are also willing to help truck drivers improve their health as it also helps them lower health insurance costs. Statistics have also indicated that healthier drivers not only reduce insurance costs, but they are also safer drivers.

It’s up to the driver, though, to get started.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and fleetowner.com. Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.