A career in trucking gives drivers freedom and flexibility and can be deeply rewarding. At the same time, it has been called “the most unhealthy occupation in America”. And that’s coming from Siphiwe Baleka, trucking fitness guru at Prime. Any job which requires sitting down all day for hours and unpredictable schedule and breaks, can start to take its toll on the body.
Lack of exercise can contribute to health issues like obesity, chronic heart disease, and diabetes. According to a 2014 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), nearly 69% of long-haul truckers are obese.
Frequent and regular exercise can help both body and mind, and significantly reduce health risks such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Although a trucking career doesn’t make it easy to find time and resources to exercise, the good news is that with a few lifestyle changes you can implement daily exercise into your schedule. The secret to truck driver exercise is that you don’t need a full-gym or endless hours to remain active. Here’s everything you need to know about truck driver exercise.
How should truckers exercise?
Finding the time for 2-hour workouts isn’t feasible for most over the road truckers. So, keep it simple instead. Studies show that even 15 minutes of exercise every day can dramatically improve health and reduce risks of disease.
Regularity is more important than intensity, so make sure you exercise for at least 15 minutes a day, no matter what. Most fitness plans and tips are designed for people who have steady access to a gym.
Truck-stop gyms are a great idea, but you don’t get the chance to stop there every day. Use a truck-stop gym whenever you can find one, but don’t let the absence of one be an excuse to remain sedentary. Your daily, regular exercise plan can be entirely in-cab and gym-free, with a truck stop gym as an occasional luxury when you have access to it.
So, what kind of exercises are best for truck drivers? Basically, your entire exercise plan can be a combination of outdoor cardio, body weight exercises, and simple equipment you can carry in your truck.
An overlooked component of any exercise plan is cardio. Even if you’re not looking to lose weight, cardio is essential to raise the heart rate. You don’t need a gym for running or jogging- there are plenty of running trails you can find during mandated rest time. Even if you can’t find any trails, there’s nothing stopping you from going for a quick jog around the truck stop, or around your own truck. Did you know that about 32 laps around your truck is 1 mile long? Bicycling is another great option if you can spare the cash. Either full sized bikes or folding bikes can be brought along on your truck. Take these out for a spin whenever you find good bike trails. While biking or running, remember that pushing the heart rate up is the goal.
If you’re not big on running or biking, walking is a great alternative. But walking isn’t really exercise, right? Think again. Recent studies have shown that walking has almost all the same health benefits as running and can help improve mood and mental health as well. Other benefits of walking daily include improved circulation and immunity and strengthened bones and joints. Walking won’t raise the heart rate as quickly, or help you shed as many pounds, but it’s a slow and steady way to improve mind and body for years.
Whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or just maintain the shape you’re in, cardio is a crucial part of any exercise plan.
Just remember to keep moving at a regular pace to raise your heart rate and re-hydrate afterwards.
Body weight exercises
You don’t need a gym to stay in the shape, you just need the resistance of your own body weight. Nothing beats the tried-and-tested method of push-ups, pull-ups, and lunges. There are many different programs and apps for body weight training, and most of them involve some pushing, pulling, or squatting. This can be adapted to whatever equipment is available: your truck and the area around it.
Start with the basics, and then add variations, length, or repetitions to build strength over time. Here’s where to start:
- Push-ups: you can start with the classic but add variations by doing them on an incline or decline surface; make them more challenging by placing your hands closed
- Pull-ups: great for muscles in your back; install a portable bar near your truck to aid in pull-ups
- Sit-ups/crunches: these are essential for the abs and core; you can add holding a ball or small weight for added challenge during sit-ups, or bring your elbow to opposite knee for oblique crunches
- Planks: will strengthen your back and core; great for stretching after crunches
- Lunges: will work your legs, especially along with cardio; don’t forget the back leg during the lunge
- Squats: make sure your knee doesn’t bend in front of your toes, or you could damage the knees
- Tricep dips: an effective arm work-out; you can do them on the ground or by using your bunk as support to lower your body by bending at the elbow; try a variety of angles
While you can’t take a full-sized gym with you on the road, carrying these few small items that can make your exercise plan more effective. Ask other truckers and fitness experts for recommendations and shop around for the best deals. Make sure you become comfortable with this equipment at a local gym before investing money in them. There are hundreds of online work-out programs available on each of these for inspiration:
- Dumbbells: these are cheap, effective, and easy to store. Dumbbells are essential for simple weight training, so make them part of your daily routine. Build strength over time with higher reps and sets, or heavier weights
- Kettlebell: it’s a cast-iron ball with a handle which comes in various weights. There are dozens of kettleball exercises you can check out online, with tons of variations to add over time
- Jump rope: people underestimate the work-out which a jump rope can provide. You can start slow and simple, but within a few weeks you’ll have built speed and rhythm. Along with getting cardio, it promotes good posture, balance, and flexibility
- Resistance bands: rubber or elastic bands which you can hook to your truck or hold with your feet. Stretch them repeatedly to work your muscles. These are popular for whole body workouts
Is that it?!
That’s it! Well, not exactly. An important point to remember is that none of this will help you stay fit, or deliver health benefits, if you forget the other components of staying healthy. Exercise only works in conjunction with a proper diet and plenty of sleep. Stretching before and after exercise is important for everyone, but especially for truckers who spend hours behind the wheel. Along with legs, stretching hands and neck will help relax your muscles after long periods of driving.
And that’s it! The sky is the limit with exercise, so there are infinite possibilities of variation and intensity just with these few simple exercises.
The important thing to remember is that you don’t need several hours at a full-size gym to get a good work-out.
Short 15-minute high-intensity workouts of cardio, body weight exercises, and simple equipment is the best for truck driver exercise plan given their schedule and working lifestyle.
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