Wisdom > Tutor

How to stay healthy in spite of long hours behind the wheel

Sitting motionless in traffic poses a big threat to your health

You may not feel it, but sitting in traffic is bad for you. PHOTO FROM PIXABAY

If you’re one of the thousands of people who make a living behind the wheel of a taxicab, a TNVS car or any other PUV, then your work comes with a number of hazards, but the biggest one among them is not the traffic surrounding you or even the terrible state of our roads. No, the greatest danger of your job is the negative impact it can have on your health. In recent times, sitting has been called the new smoking, and while this also includes the kind of physical inactivity observed among office workers, the fact is that drivers are often putting in the longest hours. We know that many of you regularly spend more than 10 hours behind the wheel, and that can wreak havoc on your body. So here are some tips on how to minimize the impact of your work on your fitness.

Sitting for prolonged periods of time has been linked to a number of health concerns. They include obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, as well as an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer. That all sounds truly scary, but the negative consequences of resting on your butt all day can be minimized by simply adjusting your lifestyle to your job. This will require some effort, we admit, but it’s your health we are talking about here, and you only have one of that. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, so taking care of your body should be near the top of your daily list of things to do.

One of the most effective ways to counteract the effects of sitting too much is exercise, and with this we don’t mean hours-long full-on workouts in the gym. A recent study concluded that short bursts of exercise can be just as effective as longer sessions, and the general recommendation is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. This means that as little as 20 minutes per day may be enough to keep you in better shape and reduce the risk of an early exit from this planet. Moderate exercise can mean anything that raises your pulse, such as a brisk walk, jogging on the spot, doing a few jumps, squats or push-ups against a wall.

A portable folding bicycle in the trunk goes a long way toward helping you stay fit. PHOTO FROM HUMMINGBIRD

Keeping a folding bicycle in the trunk of your car and going for a ride is also an easy way to get exercise. Maybe you can even make it a habit to park the car and cycle for lunch, as food is another important factor when staying healthy while driving, and we know that this can be a bit of a challenge. It’s tempting to rely on cheap junk food while on the road, but we seriously urge you to avoid those tasty drive-through meals at all costs, as nothing good ever comes from them. Instead, prepare healthier food at home or take a break and eat somewhere. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive either.

Pack healthy snacks if you need to be on the road for a long time. And avoid fast food. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

The cheapest way to eat well is to prepare your work meals at home. For breakfast, fruits and oatmeal are good options, but make sure that any oats you buy aren’t packed with sugar, as that is another ingredient you should avoid as much as possible. For lunch and dinner, try eating vegetables, grains and lean meat such as chicken (non-fried, of course). If you make sandwiches for the road, make sure to use whole-wheat bread and not plain one, as those white slices have as much nutritional value as the packaging they come in. Add some salad to the mix as well and keep some cut-up veggies and fruit in the car to snack on between trips. Nuts are also a good and healthy snack, but they pack quite a few calories, so go easy on them.

It’s tempting to rely on cheap junk food while on the road, but we seriously urge you to avoid those drive-through meals at all costs

And then wash it all down with plain water and make sure you stay well hydrated while driving. Needless to say, that chocolate bar and sugary soda drink should be totally off limits. Energy drinks are also a huge no, as they not only contain way too much sugar, but overconsumption of these caffeinated beverages can have serious consequences for your heart. If you get coffee, keep the sugar out of it and stick with plain black instead of three-in-one.

We realize all of this sounds like quite a lot to do, but it’s your long-term health that’s at stake here, and there are no shortcuts in this department. Twenty minutes of exercise every day paired with reasonably healthy food will lay a good foundation to help keep you driving fit. An annual checkup should also be a fixed part of your schedule. Once you get into the routine of things, it’s actually an easy pattern to follow.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.