Being a long-haul truck driver has its benefits. Truck drivers can see the world traveling coast-to-coast, adhere to a flexible schedule, and savor the sights in the quietness of their cab.
While this sounds considerable, drivers face many obstacles when it comes to staying healthy. According to the National Health Institute, “long-haul truck driving is a stressful occupation with few opportunities for healthy living.” The drivers tested in their study smoked regularly, had above-average LDL cholesterol levels, and were prone to diabetes more so than other occupational groups. Drivers with bad health are only granted a 1-year CDL and chronic disease makes up almost 50 percent of all CDL holders.
Truck drivers are the heartbeat of America. Essential to providing our nation’s food, healthcare, and other important necessities, long-haul drivers in this category should make a few adjustments to their daily habits to help transform their well-being and longevity. While it seems daunting, it is a central theme as we begin 2021 with health on the mind. This shift can begin by looking at a few of the top areas that affect the health of a driver:
In the past, gas stations only shelved foods that were nonperishable, processed and filled with fat and high in sugar. This aligns with research that suggests the average life expectancy of most truck drivers is 16 years shorter than average. To help offset this, rest stops and convenience stores available to truck drivers now offer favorable options for living a cleaner life.
Simple modifications in stocking apple slices, carrots, or other fruits and vegetables in place of a bag of chips or a candy bar can help curtail those statistics and stave off a sugar crash that happens when eating unhealthily. Nuts and seeds, once considered too high in fat and calories, have been proven to lower bad cholesterol, reduce the danger of heart disease, and regulate glucose levels to help with diabetes. Supplementary to those benefits, eating seeds or nuts can also curb the appetite allowing drivers to run longer with more energy without feeling hungry.
Sitting in the same position for long periods of time is a nagging part of heavy-duty truck driving. Staying active while on the road is often difficult to achieve and long rides with minimal movement can wreak havoc on the musculoskeletal system. Many occupations today allow for stand-up desks, ergonomic footrests, and the ability to simply get up and take a quick walk. Truck driving does not allow such luxury and therefore, drivers should consider options to relieve the strain of perpetual sitting.
Fitness apps are available on mobile devices today that assist in providing exercises particular to any specific ailment or provide a general full-body workout. Some of the apps online are even distinct to truck drivers in offering solutions for leg stretching, neck straining and overall wellness as a long-haul driver. There are also exercises that can be performed while driving to help relieve pressure in the back by strengthening the core muscles.
Having a high-quality seat that adjusts properly to the drivers’ body is also paramount to comfort and strength while traveling on the open road. The sedentary nature of truck driving is unhealthy but there are many ways to aid, such as exercise, proper seating and directly paying attention to the body, and combating any issue at the onset.
Driving while sleep deprived is a combination for disaster. Many fatalities occur in the long-haul occupation due to insufficient sleep or sleep that is interrupted from sleep apnea. Some drivers even give way to additional bad drug habits or too much caffeine to offset this condition. The good news is that there are choices to assist in helping this grave cause.
Experts recommend setting a sleep schedule and bedtime routine that encourages sound rest. There are rest monitors, sleep assistant apps, and sound machines that some are using to overcome the hindrances in falling asleep. In addition, many over-the-road drivers experience sleep apnea which can affect the efficacy of sleep, among other more devastating circumstances. Sleep apnea is a more serious hurdle and should be managed with professional help. There are sleep apnea tools such as a CPAP machine that open the airways and enhance a sounder slumber. Getting enough rest as a driver is a fundamental rule that gives the body and the brain time to recover from the day's stress and grants better driving.
Many of the above topics can be tackled together as a new outlook for the new year. Start simple by logging a journal of eating, exercise, and sleep activity and notice any patterns that occur. Set a goal by monitoring daily, weekly then monthly activity breaking out in blocks to assemble an attainable plan. Boredom can also prevail while driving so find podcasts or online shows dedicated to the well-being of truck driving.
The key is to have resources, commitment and a plan. Plan for the trip by packing wholesome foods, simple exercise equipment or app downloads, and proper sleeping means. As the awareness to a healthier living show up, adjust where necessary. This alteration does not happen overnight, and it will require modifications that can be difficult, but it is worth the effort for a higher quality of life.