Stay healthy, alert and upbeat on long distance road trips with the following driver health tips and travel workout exercises...

Whether you undertake regular long distance trips for work, family obligations, or pleasure, it can be challenging to find the time to look after your body.

Driving long distances

Sitting down for long periods: health risks

Sitting in the same position for hours on end is bad news for your health - and your safety. ]

Rapid heart rate, weight gain, dizziness, higher cholesterol - and in extreme cases blood clots - can result.

Research also suggests that people who sit for more than 10 hours a day may be more likely to experience mental health issues such as depression.

Muscle pains and fatigue

The human body has evolved to move. Sitting down for long periods can cause muscular pain and fatigue - common complaints among professional drivers.

In the same way office workers are encouraged to take regular breaks from being hunched over their keyboards, drivers are urged to take regular breaks - both to prevent muscle and back pain, and to ensure they stay alert behind the wheel.


Tired driver taking rest

Tiredness can kill

UK police data suggests 4% of fatal crashes have fatigue as a contributory factor - although the figure is believed to be far higher.


The basics for safe driving on the road

Before we look at specific travelling exercises, it's important to recognise the importance of the following basic but critical elements for staying healthy and safe on the road.

  • Get plenty of sleep
  • If you do snack, eat healthy items like fruit and nuts
  • Ensure meals are nutritious
  • Stay hydrated
  • Don’t smoke
  • Wash your hands regular to avoid illness
  • Keep your mind active with audio books - or Radio 4!


Create a food and exercise schedule

If you drive long distances on a regular basis, it's important to institute a plan for breaks.

These breaks should be used for both exercise and food/drink.

Even if driving conditions conspire against you, you'll be aiming in the right direction.


Male driver putting on car seatbelt

Travelling exercises for long distance drivers

Here are some simple exercises to do in a car (or beside it) - ideal for working out while travelling:

  • Hand stretches
    Gripping the steering wheel for long periods can lead to stiff fingers - and long term may contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis. When paused at a red light, move each wrist in a circular motion. Next, spread the fingertips of one hand across the edge of the steering wheel and put your weight into the hand. Repeat for the other hand. Do a few reps.

  • Abdominal crunches
    This is an easy regular exercise to do in your car (but only while safely parked). Strengthen your abdominal muscles by contracting them for about two minutes - or about the length of a song on the radio. The longer you can go, the better.

  • Shoulder shrugs
    This is an effective and simple exercise for relieving shoulder tension and making you feel more alert in general. Bring your shoulders up to your ears, hold, then relax. Aim for 10-15 reps per day - using traffic light stops or your scheduled breaks. Shoulder shrugs are also an effective way to deal with moments of stress or anxiety - perhaps after you've been affected by another person’s poor motoring skills.

  • Seated stomach crunches
    This one should be done while you are parked with the handbrake on. Lean back into the headrest and bring your core into the seat, then raise one leg and bring it back down. Repeat this several times for each leg, and if you can, do it with both legs at the same time. You may get a few funny looks from passers by but it's a great seated exercise to try.

  • Arm exercises
    Leaning back in your seat, outstretch your arms and quickly move them up and down by a few degrees. While doing this 'bouncing' motion, angle your fingers up for two reps and then down in a fist shape for two reps - and continue this pattern for a minute or two. It's a great way to relieve hand stress and contribute to arm strength.

Man doing push ups

  • Push-ups
    Taking it a step further, the classic pushup is a simple and easy way to build strength and improve circulation. The best part is you don’t need any equipment. All you need is a clear area of dry ground - or even a quiet corner of a service station. Start in the plank position with elbows extended and hands spaced slightly wider than shoulder width. Keep your legs together and contract your abdominals. Ensure your body is rigid before you do your first push up. Continue your reps, keeping your back engaged and pushing firmly against the ground.

Business woman walking whilst car charging

Walking breaks

Aside from exercises to do in a car, it’s important to get outside if possible. But when you're locked into the UK's motorway/A-road network for hours on end, it's difficult to find an easily-accessible walking route.

However, there are a few. Check out these popular dog walking routes near busy roads on Driving with Dogs.

Even if there's no walking route near a particular service station, car park, or rest area, you can use the perimeter of the car park itself (while remaining aware of any moving vehicles), or take a few laps inside or outside a service station.


Gym networks

Getting in a gym workout is simply not possible for most long distance drivers - not least because many gyms will only let you use their facilities if you are a paid up member.

However, some gym companies have locations nationwide and allow members to use any gym in the network.

A gym session might be a good option for long distance lorry drivers who work regular routes and know where gyms are located.