You know accidents are a risk when you climb behind the wheel. But a new study from Australia also links driving to obesity, poor sleep, stress, and other life-shortening health issues.
The Aussie study team asked roughly 37,000 people to answer questions about their daily drive times, sleep schedules, exercise routines, and a handful of other health factors.
Compared to non-drivers, people who spent two hours (or more) on the road every day were:
* 78 percent more likely to be obese
* 86 percent more likely to sleep poorly (less than seven hours)
* 33 percent more likely to report feeling psychologically distressed
* 43 percent more likely to say their quality of life was poor
Regular road warriors were also a lot more likely to smoke and fall short of weekly exercise targets, the study data shows.
But don’t get stuck on the two-hour threshold; even 30 minutes of daily drive time increases your risk for all of these negative health issues, the research shows.
So what’s so bad about driving? “At this point, we can only speculate,” says study coauthor Melody Ding, Ph.D., a research fellow at the University of Sydney. But here are her three best guesses, which, alone or in combination, could explain how driving hurts your health. And know this:
1. Sitting a lot is bad for you. “Especially uninterrupted sitting where you’re not standing up for long periods,” Ding says. There’s some evidence that sitting hurts your body’s ability to burn fat, which may explain its attendant health risks. Ding says some scientists even believe sitting for long stretches shortens your life regardless of your physical activity levels (although that’s still being hotly debated).
2. Driving is stressful. Study after study links stress to cancer, heart disease, and a lot of other scary health issues. And researchers have found driving is one of the most stressful activities people do on a daily basis. “Driving-related stress could explain some of the mental health risks we observed,” Ding adds. Research suggests managing stress could help offset some of driving’s health risk.
3. Road time is lost time. There are only 24 hours in a day. And if you’re spending a couple of them on the road, you may not have time left over for exercise, sleep, cooking healthy meals, and other beneficial behaviors, Ding says. Public transportation might also be a safer option because it involves more walking and standing than driving, she adds.
For most drivers, nothing is as appealing as the freedom of being on the road – just you and the asphalt peeling away behind your tires. However, sitting behind the wheel for hours on end can soon take a toll on your health. Unfortunately, due to demands of the industry many truckers tend to shrug off some of the signs that tell them that their bodies are in poor shape. The following symptoms are some of the signs that your health is beginning to deteriorate.
Chronic Back and Joint Pains
How long it takes varies from person to person, but given enough time and it catches to up to most truckers. This is not surprising really seeing as sitting all day, every day, in the rig with the consistent “jarring” or vibration of the truck can take its toll on the body. There’s a limit to the amount of vibration the body can take.
So, if you’re a trucker and are having chronic body pains, particularly in the back and the lower part of the body, be sure to see your doctor as soon as possible. While they may be able to prescribe some medications that’ll ease the pains, you may also want to try getting some exercise and move around physically for about 30 to 45 minutes any time you can as this can offer tremendous relief.
Many truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea and insomnia. This condition is not only uncomfortable, it is potentially dangerous. This is because drivers can unexpectedly nod off whilst driving due to the lack of sleep.
In fact, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA), of the 5,000 annual driver deaths, over 1,400 are caused by Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This is something you should take seriously if you drive long hours. If you’re not sleeping well at night, talk to the doctor immediately. Studies have also shown that sleep apnea is often linked to obesity, so as with back pain a combination of diet and exercise may help to relieve symptoms.
Fatigue and Lethargy
This is sometimes linked to conditions like inadequate sleep and inadequate heart activity. If you have sleep apnea, it makes sense that you’ll feel tired all day, and because most truckers live a very sedentary life, it is fairly common for them to have low energy levels.
To counteract this, start exercising about 15 or 30 minutes every day to start. Get that heart ticking and pumping faster. This will not only help you lose weight, it’ll make you feel fit, dump some badly needed endorphins into your body, increase your life span, reduce your chances of getting cardiovascular or heart diseases, and possibly boost your libido.
The average trucker is either overweight or obese. The few that aren’t either have a naturally fast metabolism, or more commonly they exercise. When you don’t work out and eat a lot of junk foods, it only makes sense that you’ll find yourself rapidly gaining weight. Once you find you’re getting overweight and obese, it’s time to change your lifestyle. Exercise more, eat healthier, speak to your doctor about possible lifestyle changes and study up on everything you can find on healthier living.
High Blood Pressure
The more time you spend on the road without much movement, the slower your blood moves around the body. This combined with too much time to think and having to keep track of everything going on around you more than regular drivers can also create additional stress. If you have a high blood pressure, talk to your doctor and start taking the necessary medications.
Most importantly, change your lifestyle and become more active. Cut back on the amount of junk food you eat on a regular basis, and drink a lot more water if you’re not already at the recommended minimum. For high-blood pressure related to stress, there are many meditative and other mental activities shown to reduce stress even when on the road.
Check if a health condition affects your driving
You need to tell DVLA about some medical conditions as they can affect your driving.
You can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving. You may be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident as a result.
You must give up your licence if either:
* your doctor tells you to stop driving for 3 months or more
* you don’t meet the required standards for driving because of your medical condition