Physical Exercises and Exercise
Professional truck drivers need physical exercises every bit as much -- or maybe more so -- as mental exercises to keep them strong and able to continue functioning at peak condition. On this work-in-progress page, we will be describing or linking to resources that you may use to help stay physically fit on the road -- even if you have
For many truck drivers, physical exercises do not rank highly on their list of priorities. We confess that we have difficulty finding time along Mike's irregular route duties to schedule in exercise of any kind.
Disclaimer: In addition to our standard disclaimer, please note that the information on this page is not medical advice. It is your personal responsibility to consult a qualified health care professional prior to starting any program of physical exercises. Ask your doctor about the benefits of combining a healthy diet with appropriate exercise. Results may vary.
Furthermore, as a convenience to you, we have links on this page to numerous resources and embedded videos that show or describe physical exercises, which we do not necessarily endorse.
Benefits of Doing Physical Exercises
The benefits associated with doing physical exercises include:
One website lists many more benefits of exercise.
Some professional truck drivers exert physical exercises only within the scope of their work. How many calories do they burn?
CalorieLab.com lists the calories burned by "Driving heavy truck, tractor, bus." (With this calorie calculator, you can change your weight in pounds or kilograms.)
An Online Activity Calorie Counter allows you to look up the calories burned through these searchable activities:
If you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you can enter figures for your weight (in pounds) and duration (in minutes) to figure out how many calories you burn doing "Truck Driving: loading and unloading truck" (under "Occupational Activities").
Two other calorie calculators -- one from My-Calorie-Counter.com and one from FitDay.com -- allow you to find the number of calories burned based on your settings for "truck driving loading and unloading truck standing."
Starting Your Exercise Program
No matter which program of physical exercises you choose, you will want to:
It is not unreasonable to think of doing physical exercises like running through the gears of your truck where you have to start out slowly and work your way up to the top gear. So, in your zeal to begin your program, remember to pace yourself. If you overdo it the first few days, you'll get sore and abandon your plan.
You will most likely want to do a variety of exercises to make sure that you work all major muscle groups in your body. One website lists 11 major muscle groups.
Some doctors recommend getting your heart rate up to a certain number of beats per minute called the "target heart rate."
Workout Clothes and Athletic Shoes
There is no substitute for a good pair of shoes in which to do physical exercises. Please consult a shoe specialist if you need help finding a pair of shoes that meets your needs.
Mike alternates between his two pairs of New Balance shoes, like these shown here:
New Balance 993
New Balance 608
Exercise Equipment in Your Truck
There may be a small amount of space -- or very small places -- in your truck where you can store small pieces of equipment to do physical exercises.
We do not recommend that you invest in larger pieces of equipment unless you are certain you know what you're getting into. In mid-2010, Vicki saw one web page extolling the virtues of truckers using a treadmill. That is all well and good, but where is the average professional driver going to put this large piece of equipment in his truck unless he has a large sleeper?
Can substitutions be made? Although they are not intended for this purpose -- and we do not recommend this -- some drivers may choose to substitute truck-related items for exercise equipment until they get the real thing. For example:
Remember that it is always best to use a tool for the purpose for which it was designed.
Kinds of Physical Exercises
Below, we will provide information on several different kinds of physical exercises that you can do:
Exercise In the Driver's Seat
We strongly recommend that doing exercise while behind the wheel of your truck be done only while you are stopped (truck in neutral with brakes pulled) or parked.
Isometric exercises involve muscular contractions against resistance without movement, holding for a few seconds and releasing.
One website has a list of physical exercises a person can do in a car:
One YouTube video shows isometric exercises that can be done in a car:
You can see if doing any of these will work for you in your truck.
Exercises In Your Truck
While standing up
If you have room to stand up in your truck, walking or marching in place is an option for you. But it can get kind of boring unless you have some kind of gauge to go by. Setting your truck's CD player, cassette player or satellite radio to some lively music might help you to make that time go by more enjoyably.
You can also do various stretches, including those with resistance bands (aka exercise bands) or dumbbells.
Lying down or in horizontal position
There are a variety of floor exercises that you can do in your sleeper berth (assuming you have the room). Whether you do these exercises on top of your mattress or move your mattress out of the way, be careful that you don't overdo it.
QualityHealth.com has a list of 8 Great Floor Exercises:
Body weight exercises
Some exercise experts say that the best kind of physical exercises to do are those that use only your own body weight as the resistance.
One example of a body weight exercise is called the "Hindu Pushup," a video of which is here:
Another body weight exercise is called the "Hindu Squat," a video of which is here:
Exercises Outside Your Truck
Among the cheapest of all exercises that can be done is good old fashioned walking.
To keep from injuring yourself, you will want to ramp up slowly. By that, we mean to start doing shorter distances first and gradually add distance, speed and angle.
Please note that in certain situations, it can be downright dangerous to walk. Examples of places where you should not walk are
It has been said that 32 trips around a conventional tractor and 53 foot trailer is equivalent to one mile. Making the trips will be safer if you do not back your rig all the way into a space (backing up so that the rear of your trailer hangs over the curb), but leave room at the rear. Depending on where you park, this may or may not be convenient or advisable (such as in a really tight truck stop where others may be trying to back into spaces near you and need the distance).
Also, if you plan to walk around your truck, bear in mind all of your surroundings, especially debris in the lot and any trucks that are moving nearby.
Since it can be boring to make 32 trips around a truck in one direction only, perhaps you might be able to split up your regimen by doing 8 sets of 4 trips each -- alternating between going to the left and going to the right -- around your truck.
Mike says that when he did this, he would walk 7 sets of 5 in alternating directions. He walks faster than Vicki does because he has longer legs.
Also, don't forget to leave room during your walk around your truck for mirrors!
Good Form, Bad Form?
The following YouTube video contrasts good walking form with bad walking form. In the last part of the video, the author also utilizes a piece of exercise equipment named "Heartflex - The Revolutionary Upper-body Conditioner" that allows the user to get an upper body workout while walking.
In this YouTube video (which is a promotional preview for a video that we do not necessarily endorse), you will see how the author uses a number of different moves in a walking workout. As it may be uncomfortable to do these physical exercises in plain view, you may or may not want to do them in your truck.
Prevention.com has more information about walking for exercise. In fact, they even have a walking calculator on that page.
Sources we've seen indicate that in classical walking, one uses about 40% of one's muscles. But when one uses one's arms -- as in "Nordic walking" -- about 90% of one's muscles are used.
You can compare the number of calories burned between different types of walking. We took the liberty of looking at two types of walking assuming a body weight of 150 pounds:
For an introduction to "Nordic Walking," you may want to see this video:
Other Exercises Outside Your Truck
The May 2010 issue of Driver Health Magazine had an excellent description of some non-walking truck driver exercises that could be done outside your truck. We encourage you to download the digital version of this issue and see if you can incorporate any of them in your routine. (Note: An archive of all of their back issues are here.)
Lack of Physical Exercises?
What happens to your body if you don't exercise regularly? Dr. Joseph Mercola, D.O., wrote about the shortened lifespans of those who don't do physical exercise regularly in an article dated October 21, 2011.
Of particular note for professional truck drivers was this bullet point:
According to a 2009 study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the more time you spend sitting down, the greater your risk of dying from all causes.
Since professional drivers spend a lot of time sitting, it is important to get up and move around. Get started and then continue the momentum.
Make sure that you don't overexert yourself while doing physical exercises (to the point that you make yourself sore). Also, make sure that you monitor yourself especially when it comes to staying hydrated. Working out or walking when it is hot (either inside or outside your truck) can lead to heat-related illness.
Evaluate for yourself whether or not consuming a sports drink that contains electrolytes is right for you. Consuming purified drinking water is always a good idea.
Another aspect of monitoring yourself is this: If you don't, someone else will be more than happy to. Consider what will happen if you are no longer able to pass your DOT physical examination to continue driving. What will you do? Consider further the crackdown on being overweight or having obstructive sleep apnea that the federal government is putting into place with CSA 2010.
Contrast, for example, the individuals pictured below.
Which one are you most like?
Which one would you like to be most like?
If you chose the guy doing the sit-ups or crunches, does that mean that the guy sitting down doesn't have a chance?
You might be interested to know that the guy on the left -- pictured sitting down -- was actually trying to get himself into better shape, as the photo below shows.
He is either running or power walking. This is good!
Even if you are not currently on any kind of program to do physical exercises, since you're well enough to drive a truck professionally, you should be well enough to start a modest exercise program. The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.
It is easiest to undertake a program of physical exercises if you have someone to do them with.
Your first choice is someone with you, like a co-driver or passenger in your truck. Hopefully, this person will help you (not hinder you) in your quest to get more exercise more regularly. If you need the motivation, perhaps you might want to review our page on goal setting. We also have some motivational quotes on our saving money page that can be applied to undertaking a program of physical exercises.
Your second choice might be someone with whom you can talk on the phone. Wearing a cell phone while walking might not be so bad if you wear a headset. Wearing a headset might not be feasible when doing other kinds of exercises, but perhaps you can set the phone down with the speakerphone setting "on." Please note that if you plan to use the speakerphone option, the greater the distance you are from the phone, the harder it may be for either or both parties to hear or be heard.
Your third choice might be an accountability partner, someone who will hold you accountable for the exercise you do or don't get and hopefully motivate you to squeeze in exercise where you can, no matter how full your working day is.
Your fourth choice -- especially if you're the type of person who feels that "free" accountability won't cut it for you -- is hiring a health or wellness coach. Aim to obtain a health coach who specifically understands the health challenges that professional truck drivers face. While some wellness coaches might provide you with a free consultation, if you're going to go to the trouble of meeting with one, consider the benefits of sticking with the program. Evaluate whether or not the coach's program (especially if it is outlined online) will work for you. If one doesn't, perhaps another will.
The human resources department at your trucking company may have already worked out reduced rates with trucker-friendly health coaches to work with their drivers. It doesn't hurt to ask. What benefits you physically can also benefit the company.
Variety is the Spice of Life
We encourage you to try to be as consistent as possible in whatever exercise program you choose. Getting into a rut can be detrimental to your health care goals, so you might want to add a bit of variety to your program.
For example, TipHero.com lists 10 Free Ways to Exercise at Your Desk which you might be able to adapt to doing from the edge of the lower bunk in your sleeper berth.
If you're looking for exercises to do in your truck, then Truckercise might be the program for you. As of this update (May 2012), the cost of Truckercise has been reduced from $19.95 to $15.95 with free shipping and handling. If you have used Truckercise, please consider submitting a product review.
Money saving tip: Starting and continuing a program of physical exercises has many positive health benefits. Not only will it help you in the short-term but also over time. Such a program must be combined with a nutritious and customized diet for maximum health benefits.
The author of one of the videos above stated that research has shown that it is the total amount of exercise you do in a day that matters, not that you do it all at once. So, perhaps you can schedule a 10-minute walk in the morning before you pull out of your rest break parking space, another 10-minute walk when you take a stretch break in the middle of the day, and another 10-minute walk around dinnertime.
Even if you can't fit in a full 10 minutes of walking, small amounts of exercise can help. If you're planning on going into a truck stop, consider parking farther away instead of closer. Every little bit of exercise helps. And small movements such as through isometric exercises can really add up.
Consider your program of physical exercises to be an investment into your health. You may not be saving tangible money up-front, but you can sure work to help prevent physical problems that will cost you money. If necessary, review the list of health benefits of exercise above.
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