Lifestyle of a Truck Driver: Get in Better Health for the Long-Haul

The opportunity to drive a truck for a living has many benefits; a sense of freedom and independence, good pay, and the chance to see some parts of the world that you may not have had the opportunity to see otherwise. However, if you are not careful about your well-being, it could lead to unwanted health problems, hospitalization and, in worse cases, premature death.

The average truck driver travels about 500 miles a day. That is a lot of time stuck behind the wheel. A sedentary lifestyle has been shown to lead to problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other major health issues. Add in the easy access to quick and unhealthy food, the heavy reliance on copious amounts of caffeine to stay awake, and lack of a quality and sound sleep routine, and you can have a recipe for disaster. It sure makes one think whether those benefits mentioned earlier are worth it. Thankfully, you can develop good and healthy habits to combat the sedentary lifestyle and make good choices for your life and body that can make the truck driving career a great choice for a long time.

Food is Fuel for the Body

Driving over the road for long hours of the day can make choosing healthy choices for snacks and meals seem impossible. Fast food, chips, soda, candy bars, and other quick, easy, and unhealthy options are endless and everywhere. Here are some ideas on how to make healthier choices for those long days:

  1. Drink A LOT of water. Sodas and other drinks are just empty calories. Keep a water bottle or a gallon jug of water to drink throughout the day and refill it at stops.
  2. Stay away from chips, candy, and other processed food for snacks. Good ideas for healthier snack options could be pre-washed and cut fruit or vegetables, whole pieces of fruit that are easy to eat such as apples or bananas, granola bars, popcorn, whole grain crackers, or mixed nuts.
  3. Stay away from most fast food, or at least pick the healthier options on those menus. Make use of your cab’s refrigerator to pack your meals ahead of time and invest in a portable oven or portable grill to heat or cook your own meals. If choosing fast food, look at the nutritional information and choose options that have higher protein and lower calories, fat, and carbs. Check out websites such as Eat This, Not That to help make healthier choices at restaurants.
  4. Plan meals and snacks accordingly. A trucker’s schedule can be all over the place, but it is still important to eat when you are hungry and before you get “hangry”! Waiting too long to eat can make cravings skyrocket, which makes it harder to choose healthier options, and easier for you to binge. Making sure you eat or snack about every 4 hours keeps you from going over the edge.
  5. Track what you eat. Use free applications such as MyFitnessPal to keep track of what you are eating. Over time you can see what choices may be unhealthy for you and swap them out for something more nutritious.

Getting Physical, Physical..

Aside from good nutrition, movement is the next biggest thing to combat a sedentary career. Even while on the road, truck drivers can find many ways to sneak in a good heart pumping workout!

  1. Invest in a good pair of running or walking shoes. While at a truck stop, fit in 30-45 minutes of power walking or running. Maybe stop at a local state park and enjoy the new scenery while walking or running one of their trails.
  2. Purchase a folding bicycle. Some people don’t like to run and choose to bike instead. Folding bicycles can be stowed in a sleeper berth compartment or tossed in the passenger seat.
  3. Get a jump rope. They are easy to store and very easy to get your heart rate going. See if you can jump for 5 minutes straight, then 10, and so on until you can go on for a long time. Maybe find another truck driver and play some Double Dutch! (KIDDING)
  4. Bodyweight workouts, no equipment necessary. Squats, push-ups, burpees, lunges. There are so many exercises you can put together that require nothing more than your commitment to getting them done.
  5. Buy a fitness tracker. These can be used to track your steps and movement, and even track your sleep. You can set up notifications to remind you to move. Using these to track your physical progress can play a huge part in motivation.
Ultimately, the biggest take away from this section is to MOVE THAT BODY. Truck stops have showers, so getting a little sweaty is no excuse!

Zzzzzz…..

Sleep is also such an important wellness factor in our lives. Too little sleep can cause us to feel drained and unfocused, as well as amp up our unhealthy food cravings.

  1. Invest in a good quality berth mattress to get a good night’s sleep.
  2. Make sure you have a portable fan and heater. If your truck breaks down and you choose to sleep while you wait for the repair, then you will need something portable to keep you warm or cool, depending upon the weather.
  3. Get a white noise machine. These are great to block outside noise and ensure you can relax and rest up.

Mental Wellness

Truck driving can be boring, especially on long stretches of road with nothing but trees and signs, mile after mile after mile. It can become monotonous. And being far away from home for long periods of time can become lonely.

  1. Purchase or rent audiobooks. Long hours can give you the opportunity to hear a new story and learn something new.
  2. Listen to a podcast. These are episodes of a program available through your smartphone. Podcasts are a great way to listen to information based around your interests. Whether you’re a history buff, a dog lover, a car enthusiast, and everything in between, there’s a podcast just for you.
  3. Learn a new language with some language tapes. Has there ever been a better time? And if you’re alone, no one can hear you sound silly as you try to figure out how to say something.
  4. Keep your family involved. Take pictures of places you get to see to show them when you come home. Tell your children where you are going ahead of time and have them look up interesting facts about it or find places you should see. Get an audiobook and have your spouse get the same book so you can share and talk about your thoughts on it. Video chat as often as possible. Plan a small special family day when you return from home.
A healthy lifestyle for a truck driver IS possible. Be willing to make improvements and make those changes at your own pace. It can take time to break old and bad habits. Try changing one or two things at time. Once you feel you are making progress with those, then work on a new lifestyle improvement.

Good health, regardless of the career, is ultimately a choice. It is a choice to take care of ourselves and our wellness; to choose to be here for the long-haul (get the pun?!).

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