We’ve put together 8 health tips for truckers to help them stay as fit as their trucks.
Truck drivers take great pride in making sure their trucks are in top condition. They regularly inspect the brakes, tires, oil and fuel levels. But there’s one piece of equipment that can easily be overlooked, and that’s driver health.
According to a 2019 study, driving a truck has several risk factors, in terms of mental and physical health problems.
Long driving times and limited delivery schedules can lead to sleep disturbances, social isolation and other health problems.
Workplace stress isn’t just for truckers. Many of us don’t take enough care of our health, but when you’re driving more than 10 hours a day, staying healthy on the road is a little more complicated.
That’s why we’ve put together eight great health tips for truckers (and anyone else whose job requires them to be sedentary) to keep you in tip-top shape for the road ahead.
Tip 1: Stay well hydrated
Many people don’t know it, but many health problems stem from dehydration.
If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Ideally, you should drink water throughout the day, not just when you are thirsty.
How much water should you drink each day?
To prevent dehydration, there are differing opinions on how much water to drink each day. Health experts generally recommend the 8×8 rule: at least eight 8-ounce glasses (2 liters or 0.5 gallons), spread out over a day.
This rule is not universal. If you are sweating or sick, you will probably need more fluids to stay hydrated. In any case, it is essential to always have a water bottle that you can refill during your breaks.
Pro tip: Fatigue is a common symptom of dehydration. The next time you’re tired, see if a glass of water is what your body needs before you go get another cup of coffee.
Tip 2: Keep your diet light and healthy
Health doesn’t just come from being well hydrated; it also comes from eating well.
But unlike water, eat only when you are hungry.
Many of us eat when we are bored, as a coping mechanism. Snacks can break up the boredom of your day and give you a dopamine hit, making them addictive.
If you find yourself snacking during the day, even if you’re not hungry, try eating more fruits and vegetables and keeping your portions small. Eating large, heavy meals several times a day can take a lot of energy to digest and cause fatigue.
On the other hand, eating lightly or eating only a few more balanced meals will help you feel more alert and able to focus on your work.
Examples of healthy, road-friendly snacks you can grab on the go include whole grain crackers, nuts, almonds, apples and small pieces of cheese.
Pro tip: Check out these easy to take recipes and snack ideas that are perfect for the road. You can keep them in your truck’s refrigerator or bring them in a cooler.
Tip 3: Limit your caffeine intake
Truckers are far from the only profession known for its overconsumption of caffeine, but too much coffee or energy drinks will take a toll on your health.
Excessive consumption of high-caffeine beverages can lead to headaches, high blood pressure, irritability and insomnia.
Energy drinks can also contain extremely high levels of caffeine and sugar. Before you buy an energy drink, check the nutrition label to make sure it doesn’t exceed your maximum caffeine or calorie intake for the day.
Pro tip: 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine is generally safe for adults to consume daily. Below is the approximate amount of caffeine found in typical beverages:
- Tea: 22-72 mg
- Carbonated beverages: 35-70 mg
- Coffee: 80-125 mg
- Energy drinks: 80-200 mg
Tip 4: Find a workout routine you enjoy
Continued inactivity, poor diet and stress can lead to excessive weight gain and cardiovascular problems.
It is essential to move your body daily to avoid health problems and keep your energy level high.
Set aside time each day to do a quick workout that fits your schedule and abilities. Simple exercises like push-ups and squats are obvious choices, but other less intense options are also available.
In addition to mobility and strength training, you should also walk for at least 15 minutes a day.
Pro tip: Check out these exercises that are perfect for long road trips.
Tip 5 – Don’t forget to stretch
Stretching is useful for all parts of our body, from head to toe, and everything in between.
For truck drivers or people on long road trips, stretching is especially important. Stretching can reduce the risk of injury, increase alertness and improve mental health.
Even five to ten minutes of stretching a day can have a positive impact on your physical and mental health.
Pro tip: Build stretching into your day during downtime. Whether you’re fueling up, waiting to load or unload cargo, or even doing laundry, take a few minutes to stretch. For specific stretching exercises, check out this link.
Tip 6 – Get enough sleep and watch your sleep quality
Many of us don’t pay enough attention to sleep, but when you’re hauling 40 tons of heavy equipment, you need to be well rested. This can be a challenge for professional drivers, due to the irregular schedules they often have to work.
But the closer you get to eight hours of sleep per night, with regular bedtimes and wake-up times, the safer you will be on the road.
Try to find a way to relax and relieve stress before bed, such as reading a book or listening to soft music. There are also many apps or videos online that offer audio content to help you fall asleep.
Pro tip: Close the curtains or wear a sleep mask to avoid light in the sleep area. You should also avoid caffeine and nicotine a few hours before bedtime. Heavy food, exercise or looking at a bright screen should also be avoided before going to sleep at night.
Tip 7 – Protect your skin
Truck drivers are constantly exposed to the sun on the road, especially during the hot seasons.
Excessive sun exposure can lead to sunburn, skin damage and even skin cancer. Wear sunglasses with polarized lenses, avoid too much direct sun exposure and apply sunscreen generously and often.
Your window filters out the sun’s UVB rays, but it doesn’t stop the more dangerous UVA rays from getting through. To protect your skin from both types of UV rays, use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
Pro tip: When driving, the left side of your body suffers far more sun damage than the right side. Be sure to reapply sunscreen regularly to any areas exposed to direct sunlight and wear a wide-brimmed hat to avoid skin damage.
Tip 8 – Take care of your mental health
Listen to how you feel emotionally. It may seem obvious or cliché, but your mental health affects your ability to focus, and to drive your truck safely.
If you feel overwhelmed or alone, reach out to someone. This could be another trucker, a co-worker, a mental health representative or a family member.
Truck driving can be a stressful and lonely job. It’s always good to ask for help when you need it.
Taking a pet on the road can also be a great source of companionship. Long hours at work can lead to loneliness, and traveling with a pet of any kind can help improve your mood. It’s also a great conversation starter at rest stops!
Pro tip: Many health benefits programs have 24-hour mental health hotlines to call when you feel overwhelmed. But if you don’t have health insurance, there are toll-free numbers to call, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States at 1-800-273-8255 or in Canada at 1-833-456-4566.
Driving a truck doesn’t have to be mentally and physically draining. When you have some free time, let go of the wheel and be sure to connect with yourself and your loved ones.