05/10/2016

Driver Digest: Finding a Healthy Balance on the Road

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Living a healthy lifestyle is a day-to-day challenge. This is particularly true for truck drivers with unique schedules, placing them away from a kitchen, the gym, and ability to focus on their health; both physically and mentally. A 2010 Center for Disease Control study showed that 69 percent of long-haul drivers were obese and of those, 17 percent were morbidly obese. Obesity can increase your chances of having type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, back pain, and stroke1. Despite the challenges, there are many opportunities for truck drivers to focus on their health and find balance.

Eating Healthy

Truck stops with calorie filled, high sugar snacks and drinks can quickly become a challenge. It’s easy to reach for a soda and candy bar when you stop but making some simple adjustments can save on those pound packing treats.

Preparation is the key to successful eating. Pack fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein filled snacks such as string cheese and nuts to enjoy while on the road1. These foods will help keep you full and avoid reaching for the potato chips. Bring plenty of water and keep hydrated.

Eating at restaurants is inevitable for drivers. Here are some tips for healthier choices2:

  1. Ask for extra vegetables. Many restaurants may not even charge you extra. Fill up on the healthier options.
  2. Request the way you want your food prepared. Choosing to have something grilled over fried will always be a healthier choice.
  3. Start with a vegetable filled salad, avoiding heavy creamy dressings.
  4. Avoid choices with the words creamy, breaded, crisp, sauced, stuffed, buttery, sautéed, pan-fried, au gratin, parmesan, cheese sauce, or scalloped.
  5. Order fish. It is low in sodium and fat. Avoid any type that is fried.
  6.  Drink water throughout the meal. It slows down your eating and makes you full faster.
  7. Skip dessert.

Also, people who track their food and monitor what they are eating tend to eat less and consume fewer calories. Try free apps such as My Fitness Pal1.

Exercise

Sitting in a truck for hours on end can make exercise a challenge but is not impossible. There are plenty of activities that can be done without equipment. Here are some tips anyone can do at a rest stop3:

  1. Go for walks or jogs at rest areas for cardio.
  2. Carry resistance bands or use water bottles as weights for conditioning activities.
  3. Bring along a jump rope and use it for cardio at rest areas.
  4.  Take advantage of truck stop resources like StayFit from TA and Petro. Select locations now offer fitness rooms and walking/running trail maps.
  5. Utilize your phone and watch brief, equipment free exercise videos.

Mental Health

Mental health is a key to overall wellness. Truck driving can be stressful at times. The profession also requires a high degree of skill and focus. Here are some tips truck drivers can use to help cope with stress5:

  1. Take action. Don’t be powerless – if you need help, seek it.
  2. Participate in social networking groups to increase your support.
  3.  Focus on positive elements of your life, such as hobbies and family.
  4. Make time to get a bit of exercise.
  5. Eat as healthily as possible.
  6. Make sure you get enough sleep.

Long hours make getting to a doctor difficult, but modern technology allows for telehealth, accessing health professionals through the internet. This can be a fast and easy way to speak with a professional4.

Putting yourself first can be a challenge, but looking to your nutrition, exercise, and mental health can have a positive impact on your well-being and add years to your life.

Sources

  1. http://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2015/03/03/truck-driver-health/
  2. http://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/eating-out-healthy/
  3. http://www.drivinghealthy.org/eatingandlivinghealthy/living-healthy/roadliving/
  4. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/09/opinion/long-haul-sweatshops.html?_r=0
  5. http://www.inboundlogistics.com/cms/article/helping-truck-drivers-address-job-stress/