The challenges truckers face every day are well known, from limited physical activity for hours on end to coping with stop-and-go traffic in construction zones. There's often the problem of finding a parking spot at day's end, too. Still, the freedom of the open road and the allure of self-employment are undeniable.
The trick is to enjoy trucking's advantages while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Study Documents Health Issues
Unfortunately, the quest to maintain one's physical and mental health out on the road is pretty difficult. Researchers working with The National Institute for Occupational and Safety Health (NIOSH) interviewed 1,670 long-haul truckers to compile the National Survey of Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury. They collected data at 32 truck stops scattered across the continental United States.
Researchers found that 69 percent of truckers had a BMI of at least 30, compared to 31 percent of the overall adult working population in the United States. Seventeen percent had a BMI of 40 or higher. Although 19 percent of U.S. adult workers smoke, 51 percent of truckers do.
Sixty-one percent of respondents reported two or more of these health risk factors:
- High cholesterol
- Lack of physical activity
- Less than six hours of sleep/day
Sometimes, such risk factors drive truckers from the profession. For example, high blood pressure and sleep apnea are two of the most common reasons drivers fail their physicals. An infographic published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) highlights the problems associated with excess weight and what can be done about them.
Toward a More Healthy Lifestyle
Fortunately, there are ways one can avoid joining the 21 percent of drivers who eventually leave the profession for health reasons. Efficient exercise and a proper diet combat the health issues truckers face.
The physically inactive hours behind the wheel present a challenge for all kinds of CDL drivers. For example, NPR told the story of a one-time champion swimmer and Olympic hopeful who became a truck driver and gained 15 pounds in just two months. He turned to exercise DVDs and workouts at sunrise without success. Eventually, he found that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) efficiently burned body fat.
Because it is so efficient, HIIT attracts busy individuals in almost any line of work. The key is to combine short bursts of all-out effort with longer intervals of moderate exertion. It is possible to apply the HIIT concept to everything from stationary bike workouts to weightlifting. Of course, it is always important to consult with your physician before trying any high-intensity exercise.
The benefits of HIIT are undeniable. In one study, just three 10-minute workouts per week lowered blood sugar and increased aerobic capacity. A recent article in Time magazine used the word "miraculous" to describe the positive impact of HIIT on health.
HIIT and food intake go hand-in-hand. Time magazine cited one Australian researcher who says HIIT "can increase fat burning and energy expenditure for hours after exercise."
For many truckers, a low carbohydrate, high protein, high fiber diet is ideal. Those who can refrigerate quality food and cook meals in their truck have an edge in getting the right amounts of protein and fiber. There are also high protein foods that travel well, like unsalted mixed nuts, natural peanut butter and higher protein yogurt. Consider apples, oranges, carrots and celery to improve fiber intake. Truckers who consume high-fiber foods feel fuller while consuming fewer calories.
The National Independent Truckers Insurance Company, RRG (NITIC) provides quality, competitive commercial truck insurance to independent owner operators across the continental United States. NITIC has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. We'd welcome the opportunity to answer your questions and provide you with a quote. Please contact us today!