Truck drivers can get on the road to a healthier lifestyle by exercising consistently. Dr. Mark Manera, founder and CEO of Supply Chain Fitness, says it begins with small goals and building a routine.
“Get smaller wins and add a little more. In six months, you will be in a better place,” he said during a webinar organized by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). “People get stuck on giant mountain with an all-or-nothing approach. That’s not recommended.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of exercise a week for adults – about 20 minutes a day.
Body weight comes from liquids, bones, muscles subcutaneous fat and visceral fat – in descending order, explained Rodolfo Giacoman, CVSA fatigue management specialist.
Manera said a person’s weight represents just one data point, and drivers need not be obsessed with it. It is better to focus on reducing waist circumference, how you feel, how you sleep, and your energy level.
Giacoman said exercise enhances alertness, promotes better sleep, and lowers stress. The five steps to wellness are sleep, relationships, mindfulness, nutrition, and exercise, he added. It also affects all body systems including messaging (nervous, endocrine, immune, reproductive); plumbing (respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, urinary); and support (skeletal, muscular, integumentary). More exercise makes the heart more efficient.
The fatigue management specialist said interval training is recommended for cardiopulmonary needs. Resistance training using the body or weights can help increase strength, muscle and bone density, and growth. Stretching and balancing helps improve flexibility and ease discomfort after long hours at the wheel.
Manera acknowledged the crazy and changing schedules of professional drivers that include late nights and early mornings. He said some exercise in the morning, others during their 30-minute break, while some do it waiting for the trailer to be loaded.
Trigger to exercise
Each person is unique and must figure out the ideal time to work out. If a driver has a long day, stretching to relax and get rid of the aches and pains is recommended. “The alarm going off, or setting the parking brake when your day is done, can be a trigger to exercise,” he said. “Find a routine and get going.”
Cardiopulmonary and resistance training can be done anytime, except four hours before bedtime, Giacoman said. Stretching and balancing can be performed at any time, especially before bedtime if it’s not intense. Similarly, walking can be done at any time, but not intensely before going to bed.
Be cautious and don’t put yourself in harm’s way while outside your truck, Manera adds. Wear reflective gear. Sometimes female truck drivers don’t feel safe outside their vehicles. Also, some drivers don’t like to exercise outside, such as at a truck stop or a shipper’s yard, while other drivers are watching. In-cab exercises are beneficial for such situations, he said.
Stretching after driving
He said if drivers have extra time, they should stretch. It provides relief after driving during a long shift. At bedtime it calms the heart rate down, leading to a restful sleep.
Manera hailed the benefits of warming up as it increases blood flow in the muscles and boosts efficacy. He gave an example of a flatbed driver who warms up before throwing chains over a load. This will decrease on the job injuries, he noted.
A combination of sleep, nutrition and exercise will help improve a driver’s health, Manera said. Companies, from the CEO down, must be invested in making driver health a priority, he added.
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