21 April 2020

How to be a healthy truck driver and look after your wellbeing

Whether you are a long-haul or part-time truck driver, looking after your health is vital to your welfare. Healthy truck drivers are able to feed and fuel the nation, deliver everyday essentials across the UK and Europe and maintain their well-being.

This article will explain how to be a healthy truck driver – from a healthy diet and sleeping tips to the ultimate truck driver workout.

What are the health hazards for truck drivers?

It is important to understand the most commonly associated health hazards for truck drivers. Here are the top 10 health risks for truck drivers throughout Europe.

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Lung cancer
  • Musculoskeletal injuries
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Irregular sleep routine
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Dehydration

How do truck drivers stay in shape?

Truck drivers can stay in shape by getting into good exercise and dietary habits. The life of a truck driver is famously sedentary and it can be difficult to find time to exercise or eat the right foods. Inactivity and fast food are health barriers, but overcoming these will help keep you motivated behind the wheel.

By eating the right things and creating a truck driver workout, it will ease stress and have countless health benefits. A number of parking locations offer their own gym facilities, making a truck stop workout even easier. Check out Premier Logistics, Formula International and Chippenham Pitstop.

What is a healthy diet for truck drivers?

Making changes and sticking to a healthy trucker diet is a key factor for maintaining your health. Long hours behind the wheel means that it’s easy to snack and indulge, but getting into a healthy eating routine will be highly beneficial to your well-being.

The old proverb, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ may not be 100% accurate but increasing the amount of fruit and veg you are eating will give you essential vitamins and minerals. Fruit and veg lead the way as the healthiest food for truckers and by aiming for your five a day, your immune system will thank you.

Staying hydrated should be another essential. Even mild dehydration can impact brain function and fatigue. Drinking enough water can be a good cure for headaches and has been proven to help with weight loss. You should be aiming to drink two litres of water every day.

Healthy eating for truck drivers doesn’t have to be difficult. Fast food is associated with the HGV industry, but by easing up on the burgers, chips and chocolate, you’ll be cleansing your arteries. Service stations and Truck Parks have increased dietary options and by choosing healthy food, you will reap the rewards.

The ultimate truck driver workout

SNAP has assembled the best exercises for truck drivers and the ultimate truck driver workout. By exercising for at least 15 minutes before work, after a shift or during a break, it will be highly valuable to your health. Keeping active will give you energy, help with back pain, raise your metabolism and strengthen your joints. Exercising can also positively impact mental health.

We have come up with a range of exercises that can be done outside a gym and can be combined into a circuit, or performed individually to improve your fitness and health levels.

Warm-Up
  • March/run on the spot - 20 secs
  • Knee raises - 20 secs
  • Hip rotations - 20 secs
  • Shoulder rotation - 20 secs
  • Chest expansions - 20 secs
  • Neck tilts - 20 secs

Cardio

Running/Walking – Running has been proven to improve the quality of your mental health, it helps you to live longer and burns calories. When you have time, try and get out for a light jog and get some miles under your belt. You never know you might even end up getting the ‘runner’s high.’ Did you know, 32 laps around a tractor-trailer is one mile?

Skipping – It may not sound like your idea of fun, but a skipping rope is cheap and won’t take up much room in your truck. Plus, you can burn up to 220 calories in 20 minutes and it requires no special skills. Include skipping into a circuit to raise your heart rate.

Jumping Jacks – The old school star jump is another effective form of cardio. Elevated heart rates will help you to burn fat and promote weight loss. See how many repetitions you can perform in 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat.

Bodyweight Exercises

Press-Ups – The classic press-up targets a large number of muscles and is one of the premier bodyweight exercises. Use your vehicle to increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise. Stand with your hands on the side of the truck to start, then progress to having your hands on the steps and finish with a conventional press-up, using the floor.

20 Reps / 5 Sets

Squats – Another vintage bodyweight exercise. The squat is useful for strengthening and toning the lower body and is well suited to counteract the everyday driving position. Once you have conquered the standard squat, try jump-squats to increase the difficulty.

20 Reps / 5 Sets

Sit-Up – Sit-ups are designed to target the core. Improved posture, reducing the risks of back pain and diaphragm strengthening are other key health benefits. If you are handling your sit-ups, give v-ups a go to crank up the difficulty level.

20 Reps / 5 Sets



Dumbbell Exercises – If you have the equipment

Farmers Walk – With a dumbbell in each hand, walk forward taking short, quick steps. Walk the length of your trailer and return. This exercise will help you to build muscle, shed fat and improve your health.

5 Sets

Walking Lunges – Again, with a dumbbell in each hand perform a lunge. Return to the middle and repeat with the opposite leg. Walking lunges are good for hip stability, balance and an increased range of motion.

10 Reps / 5 Sets

Bicep Curls – The iconic bicep curl is a weight-training exercise to build muscle in the upper arm. A lot of HGV jobs involve heavy lifting and bicep curls will undoubtedly help in this area.

12 Reps / 5 Sets

The best free workout apps

If you want to improve your health but don’t know the best truck driver exercises, there are plenty of apps which can make your life easier. There is even a fitness app devoted to truck drivers. Iron Trucker is free on iOS and Android and is “created by trucker and for use by truckers.” This is the perfect tool for staying in shape while on the road.

Other useful apps for HGV driver fitness include Nike+ Training Club, FIIT, MyFitnessPal and Strava.

How does a truck driver sleep well?

A truck driver can get a better night’s sleep by increasing their sunlight exposure during the daytime, reducing blue light exposure during the evening and minimising late-night coffee runs. A truck driver gets an average 5.18 hours of sleep each night, but for truckers to stay healthy, getting a good night’s rest is as critical as exercising and eating well.

Drivers’ hours regulations are in place to reduce the risks with tiredness behind the wheel, but the health of a truck driver is jeopardised by a lack of sleep. Sleeping disorders such as sleep apnoea are common throughout the haulage industry. Unrealistic delivery schedules are often the catalyst for disrupted sleeping, but try out these top tips to help you nod off earlier and get that extra snooze your health needs:

Sunlight exposure – Get outside and soak up the rays during your breaks. It will help to keep your natural body clock healthy, improving your sleep quality and daytime energy levels.

Blue light exposure – Blue light illumination from your phone or tablet throws your body clock out of sync and your sleep suffers. Adjust the settings on your phone and try to have a few hours without your device before bed.

Evening coffee – Coffee and energy drinks can have negative impacts on the quality of your sleep. This is because of the high levels of caffeine keeping you awake.

Looking after a truck drivers mental health

Mental health has been stigmatised in the truck driving community and it remains a taboo subject. But the job can be lonely and isolating and by ignoring and avoiding the negative impact of mental health, it can lead to stress, depression and anxiety. These treatable illnesses can be damaging to your health and other road users.

As an invisible force, mental health issues are often more difficult to detect and the charity MIND reported that 30% of illnesses in the transport and logistics industry are mental health related. Being able to talk about these issues without stigma and judgement is important. Find somebody who you feel comfortable with and get it off your chest, or if you would like to speak with a professional, the NHS offer free mental health services.

Josh Cousens | SNAP

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