Sitting in a semi for hours on end isn’t great for any truck driver’s health, but there are plenty of clever ways to incorporate movement, stretches for drivers and exercise into your over-the-road routine. Bottom line: It’s never too late to take a stand against common trucker health problems by setting some fitness goals.
Studies focused on the trucking industry have revealed some alarming health statistics about the drivers who keep the U.S. economy moving. According to one large-scale survey, more than two-thirds of truckers were obese and 17% were morbidly obese based on the federal government’s Body Mass Index guidelines. More than half of the truck drivers surveyed were also smokers.
Reversing this trend is an uphill haul—to put it in truckers’ terms—but one worth making. The key to improving trucker health lies in finding easy ways to inject more physical activity and health-conscious choices into your day. Then you can channel your newfound energy into more vigorous exercises you can do in and around your truck.
There’s no magic wand when it comes to improving your fitness routine or diet plan, just baby steps and steady progress. So keep reading for our best trucker fitness tips, including some frontline insights from a JLE flatbed driver who’s truly walking the walk (seriously, he gets a lot of steps in each day).
Great. You’re ready to focus more on your health and fitness. Just remember, this is a gradual process. If you’ve developed a bad habit of sitting in the driver’s seat for several hours straight, you’ll need to start stretching more often to combat stiff joints and prevent muscle cramps.
There’s really no downside to stretching—especially when it comes to stretches for truck drivers. Regular stretches typically translate to more flexibility, better posture, less chronic pain and fewer injuries. As a trucker, you’ll want to stretch your neck, wrists and legs at least once a day or more. And don’t forget that warm muscles respond better to stretches so try to do them after sitting in a heated cab, showering or taking a short walk.
When he’s on the job, JLE driver Chris Morgan takes every available opportunity to get out of his truck and stretch his legs. He’ll do laps around a truck stop or rest area, and if the weather isn’t ideal, he’s been known to use a Walmart Supercenter as an indoor walking track.
“I’ve been an active person my whole life and the biggest thing for me when I became a truck driver 11 years ago was I had to train myself to sit and do my job well,” says Chris, who surfs and plays golf when he’s not on the road. “But when I stop, I make it a point to go for a walk or a hike.”
If the idea of brief walks or bursts of physical activity like jumping jacks sounds exhausting, you likely need to improve your diet and get more rest, Chris says. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate your sleeping, eating and snacking habits moving forward. Chris shoots for seven hours of sleep a night, sticks to a fairly healthy diet and is a big believer in portion control and eating slowly at mealtime.
“Don’t woof something down,” Chris says. “You don’t need to stuff yourself every time. You just have to be more conscious about how much and when. Another big thing is don’t eat right before you go to bed.”
Chris and his wife cook on the weekends and then he puts leftovers in serving-size containers for readymade road meals—a great way for truckers to consciously maintain a healthy diet. He also opts for salads with protein over heavy meals and snacks on peanuts instead of potato chips when driving. But, even before adding muscle stretches and healthy snacks to your routine, the most important step for a more fit lifestyle is your mentality, Chris says.
“That’s really the biggest thing—the mindset,” he says. “You have to be willing to make good choices.”
Now that you’re on a healthier path, it’s time to start rethinking the ways you regularly incorporate exercise into your job. Sure, truckers have to sit for long periods. But so do graphic designers, attorneys and air-traffic controllers. With a little creativity and discipline, you can make fitness a priority.
Still skeptical? Check out these truck driver fitness and exercise hacks and find one that suits your interests and abilities.
If you’re feeling a bit stuck or overwhelmed by the prospect of getting fit or maintaining a healthy diet, that’s understandable. Don’t worry, though. Your fellow truck drivers are leading the charge with some innovative ways to improve health and unlock longevity.
The Iron Trucker Fitness app is geared toward drivers who want to use their truck for more than driving. Created by Georgia truck driver Cleo Hardy, this free trucker workout app includes workout routines that prove your truck is the perfect piece of multipurpose exercise equipment.
Speaking of equipment that’s specialized for truckers, another trucker invented a portable workout bench that’s right-sized for your rig. The bench only weighs 25 pounds and is collapsible, which makes storage simple. Inventor David Copeland says he uses the bench to do 40 different exercises and has sold several to truck drivers impressed by his ingenuity.
When it comes to truck driver fitness, though, Siphiwe Baleka may be the most influential figure of all. The athlete-turned-trucker runs Fitness Trucking, a company that consults with trucking firms and their drivers on the importance of nutrition and exercise. Baleka’s 13-Week Program has been a big hit with truckers looking for fitness guidance, and those who complete the program lose 7% of their body weight on average.
No matter where you are in your journey, it’s never too late to get fit. If you’re interested in working for a flatbed trucking company that supports your healthy pursuits, apply with JLE. Follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn to learn more about why we're a finalist for the Truckload Carriers Association's "2021 Best Fleets to Drive For."