Thursday, 10 October 2019 17:09

The Road Life: Battling Obesity

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Commercial truckers take on risk when they hit the road. Average long-haulers work 60 hours a week, and they drive around 107,000 miles every year. Most people are under the impression that the biggest health risk for truckers is a crash caused by driver error. It’s true – long hours lead to drowsy and distracted driving, with fatal consequences. But there is another health risk that doesn’t get the same kind of attention, even though it affects a much larger percentage of truckers: obesity.

A report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows that approximately 12 percent of crashes occur when drivers have a heart attack, experience diabetic shock, fall asleep, or have some other health-related episode that causes them to lose control of their vehicle. Here’s what to watch for – and how to prevent this common reason truckers have to leave the profession.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Hours, days, and weeks on the road mean too much fast food and not enough exercise. As a result, truckers are likely to pack on extra pounds. In fact, one study shows more than 7 out of 10 truckers struggle with obesity all of the health problems that come along with being too heavy. Another study puts that figure higher, at 86 percent of truckers. That’s significantly higher than rate of obesity found in the general population, which currently hovers around 30 percent.  

Carrying too much extra weight is associated with a long list of chronic diseases, such as:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Sleep Apnea
  • High Cholesterol
  • Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Cancer
  • Joint and Back Pain
  • Stroke

These conditions can disqualify truckers from a CDL license, contribute to fatal crashes, and affect quality of life both on and off the job.

The Top Three Issues Contributing to Obesity in Truckers

Outsiders are quick to offer “simple” solutions for staying healthy. Just skip the fast food and get more exercise. Obviously, if it was this easy, obesity wouldn’t be such a problem for truckers. The truth is that typical life on the road doesn’t just make this advice hard to follow – it is nearly impossible.

To begin with, consider the dining options. Nationwide, there are long stretches of highway that can only be classified as food deserts. The only choice for a hungry driver is high-calorie, high-fat, high-salt snacks from quick-marts and convenience stores. Chips, soda, and candy are the only available sustenance for miles.

Unfortunately, even when truck stops offer more substantial dining selections, nutrition isn’t much better. Often, it’s fast food or comfort food offered buffet-style, which has the same high-calorie, high-fat, high-salt profile as snacks, but it’s hot and served in a bag or on a plate.

Creating an exercise routine is another frustratingly difficult task. It’s not possible to make daily visits to the gym and creating individual exercise programs while on the road is pretty tough. There is a lot of pressure for drivers to squeeze in as many miles as possible, so time is strictly limited.

Tips for Keeping Weight in Check

Staying slim on the road is no easy task, but it can be done. There are specific steps you can take on your own to keep your weight down. Better still, the industry is starting to realize that it’s going to be impossible to attract and retain truckers if there aren’t some big changes. Some truck stops are putting in gyms, walking trails, and healthier dining options, and these services are expected to expand considerably in coming years.

In the meantime, try these tips for keeping your weight in check:

Better Nutrition

  • Ditch the soda. Coffee and tea (without excessive cream, sugar, and flavoring) gives you the same caffeine kick without the calories.
  • Check out portable options for healthy foods. A cooler full of fruit and veggie smoothies or mix-your-own protein shakes get you full and deliver critical nutrition without excessive calories.
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with chunks of fruits and veggies, which are now widely available in quick-stop coolers. Otherwise, get a big bag of easy-peel clementines, grapes, strawberries, etc., to keep your hands and mouth busy and your belly full.

More Exercise

  • Invest in a bit of equipment that will allow you to exercise anytime, anywhere. Try a compact, fold up bike for riding around rest stops, or pack a jump rope and some hand weights.
  • Any activity is an improvement over days of just pushing the gas pedal, so start small and experiment to find something fun.

Staying safe on the road is more than careful driving – it’s taking good care of yourself to prevent debilitating and deadly disease. Focus on keeping the pounds off to feel good – and to ensure you can stay in your chosen profession as long as you want. 

Last modified on Monday, 19 September 2022 23:09