According to the 2015 CDC Vital Signs Issue, truck drivers face health risks affecting their livelihood. It touched on the survey findings of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The NIOSH found in 2010 that 69% of truck drivers were obese, and 17% were morbidly obese. They also revealed that over half of long-haul drivers smoke and only had six hours of sleep per 24-hour period on average.
We all know that obesity and bad habits can increase one’s risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and other illnesses. But it’s not easy for truck drivers to have a healthy lifestyle. Their job demands them to sit all day with barely any breaks. As such, they don’t have many choices for meals that aren’t fast food.
But the industry shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the health risks plaguing their drivers. Likewise, truck drivers themselves shouldn’t be resigned to their detrimental lifestyle. But how possible is it for them to stay fit?
Health Conditions Truck Drivers Suffer
Seven in ten long-haul truck drivers are obese, two times more than the adult population in the States. If they suffer the diseases obese people are at risk of, they can be disqualified from renewing their commercial driver’s license. No license means no source of income, which then means no money for healthcare.
Sadly, the prevalence of diabetes among truck drivers was twice that of the general population, according to the NIOSH survey. But at least, the prevalence of heart disease among them was lower than that of the U.S. working populations. Only 22% of them were either taking or have been told to take medications for high cholesterol, though. In addition, 27% of truck drivers reported having no physical activity for at least 30 minutes in a span of seven days.
More than half of long-haul truck drivers dealt with high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, high cholesterol, or lack of sleep. These increased their chances of developing serious but preventable illnesses.
Looking at these data, it already seems impossible for truck drivers to stay healthy. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Anyone can be healthy as long as they make the right choices.
Leading heavy haul trucking companies should also have wellness programs for their drivers. By initiating the change, they can help their drivers value their health more, like the truck drivers who have successfully stayed fit.
Fitness Hacks by Real Truck Drivers
William Velasquez, truck driver and winner of the two-month Accelerate Your Health Wellness Competition, shared his secrets to staying fit for the job. He planned his stops and divided his day between driving and exercising time. After waking up, he’d do an hour of cardio, then start working. During his stops, he parked the truck far away from the main door or truck stops so that he could walk the farthest.
This routine had changed Velasquez’s body and endurance throughout the competition. His sleep improved, and his nutrition boosted, thanks to the coach who gave him health advice. He didn’t stop eating because he needed the food to stay energized. The only difference was that he prepared his own food through the help of healthy recipes he found online.
Velasquez consulted his coach once a week and spent an hour talking about his goals, the foods he should eat, and the type of exercises he should perform.
He had kept dumbbells and resistance bands in his truck, but his main hack was the mini trampoline he had also kept in his truck. He used the trampoline inside the vehicle to exercise whether it was sunny or rainy outside.
But since not every truck driver can afford a health coach like Velasquez, they can try Siphiwe Baleka’s strategy instead. He’s a former truck driver and now a driver fitness coach. Baleka committed to exercising for 15 minutes every day in his trucking days, with no excuses. He made each workout vigorous, maintaining a 75% to 80% maximum heart rate. His exercises focused on multiple muscle groups.
After his intense workouts, Baleka ate, but not fast food. Instead, he filled up with fast-acting protein, like whey isolate powder. He consumed it 30 minutes after cooling down as it was the best way to build muscles.
From there, Baleka ate every three hours, focusing on healthy snacks. He tracked his health by keeping a journal, which also allowed him to spot weaknesses in his routines.
It turns out that staying fit on the road isn’t as hard as we thought. A driver only needs dedication and self-discipline, like Velasquez and Baleka. And of course, truckers should also be supportive of their drivers’ health goals. Support is crucial for every person trying to improve their health.