In the Spring of 2011, the Canadian Government announced that it would be investing $2.6 million to find out why truck drivers generally live a decade less than the average Canadian. The study is being conducted by researchers at the University of Moncton with the full support of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association.
The results should be available in 2014.
Meantime, you just have to glance at driver population statistics and you’ll see that if left unchecked, the Canadian truck driver might soon make an appearance on David Suzuki’s list of endangered species.
The reasons are familiar. The average driver is over 45. Truckers over 55 outnumber those under 30. The job is largely sedentary and the hours can be challenging. Bad sleep habits wreak havoc and stress builds on itself. And while a driver is sitting, he or she is also being jostled about, so the driver’s musculoskeletal system takes a beating. Risk of diabetes is high.
So until that unlikely day arrives when freight gets delivered without human interaction, we’re offering five handfuls — 25 in all — of quick and easy health tips for drivers. Some you can act on today; others might take a bit of prep work. But for the most part, just go for it. You’ll feel better immediately.
25. Check to see if your company offers healthy-living programs for employees.
Some have workout facilities at the offices or offer a discount or partial reimbursement for a gym membership. For $5 a week, employees at Brampton, ON’s Apps Transport get two one-on-one sessions with the company’s in-house fitness expert John Siembida, plus a daily lunch, made by Siembida himself.
24. Don’t diet but instead just live a healthier lifestyle.
“If you want to get healthy, don’t focus on weight loss, focus on health,” says Siembida. “I want to come at it like weight loss is not my goal, strength is my goal and maintaining strength as I get on in years; and if weight loss comes from that, fantastic!”
23. Start small…
…with one habit you want to change and decide how you are going to change it.
22. Challenge yourself to stick to a goal for at least a month.
If you manage to do any healthy activity you want—whether it’s hiking or walking, even if it’s only for a short period of time—that activity will become a habit and part of your new routine.
21. Eat smaller amounts at mealtime.
Southwestern-Ontario-based Pete Blatz is a 36-year-old owner-operator who has managed to lose a whopping 45 lbs in the past year; “just,” he says, “by having smaller portions.”
20. Eat breakfast every day.
Eggs, bacon, yoghurt, whatever you like best.
19. Why stop at three meals a day?
Treat yourself to more than three. Just do it healthily.
18. Replace chips and chocolate snacks with cut-up fruit pieces, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds.
Fruits like apples and oranges help lower your cholesterol because they have something that dietitians call soluble fiber (also found in oats, barley and eggplant, to name a few).
17. Cook for yourself.
It’s cheaper. And having more money in the bank relieves stress.
16. Cruise the salad bar.
Ray Kirby is a veteran driver and owner of Newfoundland’s Maritime Moving and Storage. At a truckstop, he can be found cruising the salad bar. “I try to eat salads because they give me more energy; heavy foods make me groggy and sleepy,” he says.
15. Know what you are eating.
Kirby says he likes eating out often, and adds truckstops are better than they used to be at offering healthier options. Kirby is right. Fatty foods can make you sluggish, so when you eat out, see if the menu offers any baked options or healthier alternatives to fried foods.
14. No Pop.
Replace soda with juice or, preferably, water.
13. White Out
Try to cut sugar, flour and salt out of your diet.
12. Avoid Eating
Just kidding. But you shouldn’t eat right before you go to sleep as your body won’t be able to metabolize the food.
11. Work at making sleep easier.
No caffeine before retiring, no heavy meals just before hitting the hay.
10. Take your hobby with you on the road.
A hobby can help you relax; it will relieve stress and make you sleep better, while all the while having fun. If you rollerblade or fish, make some time for it when you’re on the road. If you can rollerblade and fish simultaneously, good for you!
9. Get some earplugs and eye shades.
Carrier’s Edge, the familiar online driver-training institute, incorporates driver wellness into its curriculum. It is also one of the chief architects, with the Truckload Carriers Association, of the 20 Best Fleets to Drive For Competition. Even drivers without obstructive sleep apnea should take steps to get a good night’s rest.
8. The Rock’s Ray Kirby agrees.
“I like my sleep. I always try to get at least eight hours of sleep per night.” Sleeping is very important to a healthy lifestyle, and believe it or not to losing weight. So don’t cut corners on your sleeping hours.
7. Stretch Armstrong.
Stretching helps you relax. You don’t need a lot of room to stretch and you can do it in your sleeper if you want.
Or jog. Around your rig. And if there isn’t space for you to run or walk but you want to anyway, you can walk or run on the spot. Use music to make it more enjoyable.
5. Your mom was right about posture.
Sit up straight in your chair and make sure your shoulders aren’t slouched forward. See? You feel better just thinking about it.
4. Stay in touch with the folks back home.
Anything that eases stress keeps you healthier. And there are more ways to do it than ever before.
3. Weight training can be easier than you think.
A 10-minute warm-up of cardio followed by a 15-to-20 minute workout is all you need. You can do reps of 12 or 15 and can accomplish a lot with a little, Siembida says. A set of dumbbells (or other heavy objects like soup cans if you want) can help you do a full body workout. Start with two or three weight-training sessions a week and work up from there at your own pace. To avoid injury, it is best to warm up before and after a workout. Try to finish your exercises at least two to three hours before you go to sleep. If you cannot fall asleep, get up and do something else for a while and then come back, Carrier’s Edge advises.
2. What can also help you get a better sleep is a routine.
If, before you go to bed, you read for 10 or 15 minutes, your body will get in that routine and falling asleep will come easier. Avoid watching tv or surfing the ‘Net before bedtime because those activities can be stimulating and may prevent you from falling asleep. Reading is a much better relaxant.
1. Take ownership of your back pain.
If you experience back pain, there are a couple of things you can do, like stretching and strengthening your back muscles. Siembida says you should stretch whenever you can, and that strengthening the lower back through weight training can make a big difference.
This article was in the August 2012 issue of Today’s Trucking and can be found in the online issue of the magazine on page 40. It was also published on todaystrucking.com.