One of the largest industries in the U.S. is trucking and shipping. Sources state that nearly 1 in every 15 citizens are employed in the field. Yet those employed as truck drivers are unquestionably some of the unhealthiest workers in the country, due to their poor trucking health habits.
Roughly 1 in every 7 truck drivers are clinically obese, twice as many as in any other work environment. With an average life expectancy of about 61 years, truck drivers are constantly at risk of and being diagnosed with medical conditions like heart and respiratory issues, hypertension, and more.
This places a financial strain on families and employers, and can be problematic for the federal government when evaluating safety regulations on the road deriving from a truck driver’s poor health–ultimately affecting their ability behind the wheel.
One common theme in these cases is the relative preventability that exists through behaviors that lower the risk of these conditions. The challenge comes in engaging workers to participate in programs and everyday activities that allow them to take control of their own health. Tips like the ones below can help a busy truck driver adjust their daily routine to allow for better choices for their trucking health without compromising their work.
4 Easy Ways Quickly Improve Your Trucking Health
1. Stay Hydrated
A study of nearly 10,000 adults concluded that proper hydration was associated with a lower Body Mass Index (BMI). Researchers suggested that obese individuals might have ingrained behaviors that end up leaving them dehydrated, like eating when they’re actually thirsty, or drinking beverages like soda and coffee in excess.
The average person should aim to drink around 64-80 ounces of water per day. For your Try bringing a refillable water bottle on trips, and incorporating more foods with a naturally high water content, like apples, oranges, spinach, and carrots.
2. Eat Smart
Following on the heels of eating water-rich fruits and vegetables to pack in extra hydration, it’s also incredibly important to adjust for adequate nutrition on the go. Though a common misconception is that there aren’t healthy options available, it’s not necessary to be following a strict, demanding diet while on the road.
Pay attention to nutrition labels, and choose meals or snacks high in protein, fiber, and lower in sodium, sugar and preservatives. Try to go for the lighter option when eating restaurant meals- like fish, grilled chicken, soups, especially broth based, and salads. By being mindful of the ingredients and nutrition facts in common foods, and making a concerted effort to eat more balanced meals, the ability to source healthier options from what’s already available will gradually become intuitive.
3. Make Room for Fitness
It seems impossible to get in any sort of physical activity when on the road, but it’s not only doable- it’s critical to maintain health and prevent a lot of the symptoms many truck drivers experience after an extended period with limited activity. The key is to manage the limited time and space available wisely.
Take advantage of pit stops and mini-breaks to stretch legs, and go for a brisk walk, even for a few minutes. You can also use a workout app to maximize the small space of a hotel room or even outside by engaging in quick, structured workouts that correlate to your fitness level. It doesn’t have to be an intense, grinding session at the gym- adjusting lifestyles is all about replacing old, unhealthy habits with new ones, so anything you can do will help.
4. Get Proper Sleep
Over years of study, a growing research field has linked sleep deprivation to weight gain in children and adults. It stands to reason that truck drivers who spend hours on the road, oftentimes driving at night, would be contributing to the jump in numbers of those not getting enough sleep.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) lists regulations for the amount of time a driver must rest and how many hours they’re supposed to spend driving. However, it’s key that a driver recognize when they are sleep deprived, as well as how much sleep they need to be able to perform their job efficiently and safely.
If a driver is constantly feeling symptoms of fatigue (such as impaired memory function, drowsiness, or slow reaction time), they should also look into testing for sleep apnea. This helps to keep a driver safe, as well as everyone around them on the road.
Pursuing a healthy lifestyle can be a real challenge for those living busy lives, and especially those who have to travel constantly for work the way truck drivers do. It’s in the best interest of trucking employers, employees, and their families to actively pursue health and fitness in small, everyday ways, because those everyday changes stack up to long term health and financial benefits for everyone involved. Start today!