Archive for category exercise

May is Global Employee Health & Fitness Month

Image source: National Association for Health and Fitness

Global Employee Health & Fitness Month is a worldwide observance to promote health and fitness in the workplace. Practicing a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet and physical exercise is key to avoiding injury and illness and being a dynamic, high-performing worker. For truck drivers, health and fitness are vital to safely operating a vehicle and performing other related job tasks. Healthy and fit drivers benefit business operations because they feel physically better, have higher mental alertness, and comply with CDL medical requirements.

Health and Fitness Challenges for Truck Drivers

Finding opportunities to get nutritious foods and regular exercise can be a challenge for truck drivers. Although truck drivers are always on the go, their access to healthy food options on pick-up and delivery routes often reflects food desert conditions. Truck stops, rest areas, convenience stores, break room vending machines, and fast food restaurants usually offer unhealthy processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. Exercise is especially important for long-haul drivers who travel for extended periods without much physical activity. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that truck drivers lack adequate exercise and many see themselves as being out of shape. As a result of eating poorly and not exercising, obesity and morbid obesity are twice as high for long-haul truck drivers than other workers.

Research shows that obesity negatively impacts job performance and can cause sleep apnea, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. A recent RAND study reports that nearly 60 percent of the United States population has one or more of these chronic conditions. Treatment costs for these conditions account for 90% of national health care expenditures. Another study found that combined annual costs of covered medical, sick day, short-term disability, and workers’ compensation claims for normal weight employees averaged $3,830 while costing $8,067 for morbidly obese employees.  

Taking the Onramp to Better Health

A recent nationwide survey of over 20,000 employees found that healthy workers were 16 to 27 percent less likely to have recent absenteeism. It also indicated that higher job performance was more likely for: 

  • 25 percent of workers who ate healthy the entire day.
  • 20 percent of workers who ate five or more servings of fruit and vegetables on four or more days in the past week.
  • 15 percent for workers who exercised for 30 or more minutes on three or more days a week.

Being on the road doesn’t mean that truck drivers have no chances to improve their health. Instead, it means that they must adapt to their mobile workplace by doing things a little differently than most employees who always work in the same place. The tips below can help steer drivers in the right direction, but it is always important to consult a health care provider before making any dietary or lifestyle (exercise) changes, to make sure you can safely do so.

  • Shop at grocery stores and pack your own meals, snacks, and drinks instead of stopping at truck stops, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants.
  • Eat foods that are high in protein and omega 3-fatty acids, and low in carbs, preservatives, and sodium.
  • Eat smaller meals more often during the day to help lose weight and steady your blood sugar level.
  • Drink more water instead of sugary drinks like soda.
  • Sleep in a quiet, comfortable place, and avoid large meals, spicy foods, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, and television before going to sleep.
  • Find a safe area near your truck to take a walk, stretch, do push-ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, or jump rope.
  • Locate truck stops that provide food and services that support a healthy lifestyle for truck drivers.
  • Quit using tobacco products, stimulants, and alcohol.

Click on the following links for more information and resources:

Keep Trucking Safe.org – Truck Driver Health Issues

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) – Truck Driver Health

NIOSH – Total Worker Health Programs

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute – Driving Healthy.org

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Thinking outside the box when it comes to tracking your weight and body mass (Part 5 of 5)

By Jena Williams

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This is part 5 of a series to dissect the CDC’s recommendations to prevent obesity in truck drivers. (Click here to see part 1). A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)* confirmed that long-haul truck drivers are 2 times more likely than other U.S. adult workers to be obese.

In this series we are tackling one obesity prevention suggestion a week.

Give yourself grace when you step on the scale. Initially as you begin to exercise, you may gain a few pounds as muscle develops. Some muscular body types appear to have high BMI based on numbers, but in reality aren’t carrying extra fat. Therefore, I’d suggest measuring your body (rather than weighing) to track changes as you tone up or just go by how your clothes fit. You’ll know if it’s making a difference or not.

Try journaling your goals, triumphs and setbacks. Think of something you’d like to be able to do – climb the stairs, wear a certain size, participate in an event. Begin writing down what it is currently like to do that thing (e.g. I’m breathing heavily after 2 flights, I can run a quarter mile before needing to stop, I can do 7 sit-ups before stopping, my waist is 41 inches). Each week, re-check your gauge to see how you are doing. Write down what you think contributed to your success (or is keeping you from your goals).

If general aches and pains are an issue for you, write down your level and type of pain to see if it changes as your body gets used to the exercise. Many people observe that if they generally wake up with low back pain, it’ll subside when they start building core muscle strength. This is a good place to mention that your physician will be the best person to suggest the level of exercise that is right for you.

Over the past month, we’ve discussed the 4 recommendations from the CDC to help truck drivers prevent obesity. They are:

  1. Eat healthy and smaller portion sizes.
  2. Drink more water instead of sugary drinks like soda.
  3. Be more physically active.
  4. Track your weight and body mass.

If you haven’t already started to make changes, then now is the time to pick one change to implement for the upcoming month. Work on that until it becomes the new normal for you, then choose another area to work on. Talk to a friend about your plan to get healthy or make yourself accountable by listing your change in the comments. Ask for support and encouragement from friends and family or if you prefer, ask them to challenge you. You know what will motivate you to not give up so ask for the type of support you need.

Vital Smarts has a book called Change Anything that teaches individuals to recognize the personal, social, and environmental forces of influence currently working against them—and then turn them in their favor. It’s worth the read to help you get from where you are to where you want to be.

Start simple suggestion: Make a health-related goal today, and then measure your current ability or size as a baseline.

If you’ve struggled against obesity and made even small wins, will you share your success story in the comments?

*Sieber WK, Robinson CF, Birdsey J, Chen GX, Hitchcock EM, Lincoln JE, Nakata A, Sweeney MH [2014]. Obesity and other risk factors: the National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury. Am J Ind Med (57)615-626. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajim.22293/abstract

 

How to be more physically active (Part 4 of 5)

By Jena Williams

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This is part 4 of a series to dissect the CDC’s recommendations to prevent obesity in truck drivers. (Click here to see part 1). A recent study* by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that long-haul truck drivers are 2 times more likely than other U.S. adult workers to be obese.

In this series we are tackling one obesity prevention suggestion a week.

If you are not used to physical activity, then this may be the most intimidating part for you. My advice, start small and do something you enjoy. Don’t try to do someone else’s exercise routine if it’s not fun to you. Yes, I’m using the word “fun” liberally, but if you try different activities, you’ll find that there are ones you enjoy more than others. If you’d rather walk outside than walk a treadmill, then walk outside. Give yourself small challenges to beat. Recognize that the first week is the hardest and after that it’ll be much easier.

Speaking of walking – if you find yourself at truck stops with time on your hands for a walk, but no safe place to have a walk, talk to the manager on duty. You are the customer, so they likely will cater to your needs, but they need to know what they are first. The more customers that ask for healthy options and safer places to walk, the more likely they are to accommodate the needs of drivers seeking healthier lifestyles.

You’ll be more likely to stick to an exercise routine if you find an accountability partner. The best one would be someone to exercise with, but if that’s not possible, then at least agree to check in with each other daily.

Exercise on the road may seem to be a challenge, but other truck drivers have done it. Check out the drivers in the links below to see if you are inspired. (I know they inspire me!)

Todd McCann, Healthy Trucker: https://www.thehealthytrucker.net/truck-driver-exercise-routine/

Jerry, Healthy Trucker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJAgKWRiFpg

Bryan Calestine, TMC driver: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-y6JPVy9BE

Resources:

Weight Training Truck Driver Workout Plan: http://www.weighttraining.com/workout-plans/truck-driver-workout-plan

Healthy Trucker, In Cab Workout: https://www.thehealthytrucker.net/in-cab-truck-driver-workout/

Florilli Transportation LLC, In Cab, Cold Weather Exercises: http://www.florilli.com/blog/bid/337784/Too-Cold-to-Exercise-10-In-Cab-Exercises-for-Truck-Drivers

Truck Drivers Money Saving Tips: http://www.truck-drivers-money-saving-tips.com/physical-exercises.html

The 7 Most Common Workout Mistakes Beginners Make: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/23/beginner-exercise-mistake_n_6334618.html?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067

Start simple suggestion: Put on your high-visibility vest for safety and walk around your truck at a pace or quantity of times to make you breathe heavy. If that’s too easy, then see how long you can hold the plank position and add 5 seconds a day until you get to 1 minute. Here’s a link to how to do a plank: http://30dayfitnesschallenges.com/how-to-do-a-plank/

* Sieber WK, Robinson CF, Birdsey J, Chen GX, Hitchcock EM, Lincoln JE, Nakata A, Sweeney MH [2014]. Obesity and other risk factors: the National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury. Am J Ind Med (57)615-626. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajim.22293/abstract

Are you drinking your calories? (Part 3 of 5)

By Jena Williams

Fresh fruits milk shake on wood

This is part 3 of a series to dissect the CDC’s recommendations to prevent obesity in truck drivers. (Click here to see part 1). A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that long-haul truck drivers are 2 times more likely than other U.S. adult workers to be obese.*

In this series we are tackling one obesity prevention suggestion a week.

Americans drink a ton of calories. Here’s a list of calories in common beverages from WebMD

My favorite coffee treat this time of year is a Salted Caramel Mocha from Starbucks. Can you imagine my horror to discover that a 16 oz. made with 2% milk has 450 calories! That is not a typo, 450 calories. In an 1800 calorie diet… well, you can do the math. It might be worth your time to check into the calories you are drinking and how many you should be consuming in a day. Here is a recommended daily calorie guide by age and gender.

Is Monster Energy what you go to for that mid-afternoon energy burst? Each 16 oz. can contains 220 calories. Dehydration can cause you to feel sleepy, so next time you need an energy boost try a bottle of water.

Start simple suggestion: Check the calories on your favorite beverage and consider replacing with brewed tea (zero calories!) or coffee at just 5 calories. In cold weather, hot water with a squeezed lemon wedge is also very refreshing and allows you to save those calories for foods that will benefit you, not weigh you down.

 

* Sieber WK, Robinson CF, Birdsey J, Chen GX, Hitchcock EM, Lincoln JE, Nakata A, Sweeney MH [2014]. Obesity and other risk factors: the National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury. Am J Ind Med (57)615-626. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajim.22293/abstract

Obesity – should we talk about the dreaded topic? (Part 1 of 5)

By Jena Williams

Belt Last Hole

Just hearing the word obesity can cause anxiety in those who suffer from it. I know from personal experience. But it’s an important topic because it impacts us.

You may have heard of the survey of 1,670 long-haul truck drivers recently conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study found that they are 2 times more likely than other U.S. adult workers to be obese.1

That is not a good statistic, especially since often more than other workers, truck drivers must maintain their health in order to maintain their jobs. The CDC developed an infographic that sums up the costs of obesity in truck drivers. Obesity is linked to a host of health problems including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke.

But what is the solution to the obesity problem? It’s not like we want to carry around extra weight. If it were easy to get rid of it, we would.

Over the next 4 weeks, we will explore the CDC’s recommendations and hopefully discover how to make them applicable to our real lives and hectic schedules. The recommendations are:

  1. Eat healthy and smaller portion sizes. (Do we know what a portion is?)
  2. Drink more water instead of sugary drinks like soda. (Do you mean bye bye Starbucks, too?)
  3. Be more physically active. (But my job requires sitting all day!)
  4. Track your weight and body mass. (Ugh!)

Duh! No surprises here.

Don’t get me wrong as I’m not knocking the tips. They are all good. I just think many of us knew these tips already and what we need is to start the discussion on how to implement them, specifically for truck drivers. To be clear, I’m not a physician or a nutritionist, but hopefully I can share some ideas to help you be successful. In the upcoming weeks we’ll tackle some of the more common obstacles to each of the suggestions above. I hope you’ll check back and share your comments and suggestions each week as we work through them together.

Spoiler alert! At the end of this series, I’m going to suggest that you just pick one topic to address per month. You can decide now, or wait until we tackle the topics together to begin. It takes time to develop a new habit so by making small changes over time you’ll be more likely to be successful than completely upsetting your routine.  After all, these aren’t New Year’s resolutions. This is your new healthy life and we want you to be successful!

Note: If someone forwarded this blog to you, be sure to sign up in the left hand column to receive future topics.

  1. Sieber WK, Robinson CF, Birdsey J, Chen GX, Hitchcock EM, Lincoln JE, Nakata A, Sweeney MH [2014]. Obesity and other risk factors: the National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury. Am J Ind Med (57)615-626. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajim.22293/abstract

Finding motivation to exercise

By Jena Williams

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Finding time and motivation to exercise is a struggle for most people. For those that sit all day at a computer or driving a truck, finding the motivation can be even more difficult. Newton’s first law of motion confirms this: An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion … This law is sometimes referred to as the “law of inertia.” Explains a lot, huh?

This infographic was recently published in The Washington Post. It shows what happens to a body that sits for too much of the day. Health issues and pains abound. Our bodies need to move. Just 15 minutes a day is all it takes.

Each of us is motivated differently. Below I’ve listed some links that have worked for others. See if any will work for you. Or if you have a success story, please share it with us in the comments.

15 minute exercises from Trucker to Trucker: http://www.truckertotrucker.com/blog/keep-fit-15-minute-exercises-perfect-load-downtime/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+truckertotrucker%2FbwZH+%28Trucker+to+Trucker+Blog%29

The Truckers Workout: http://youtu.be/iW0xpvuIHMo

Healthy Trucker (This site has a ton of good info!):

Men’s Health: http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/on-the-road-fitness

KeepTruckingSafeBlog: http://www.keeptruckingsafeblog.org/2011/11/24/what-does-it-take-to-stay-in-the-game-for-the/

What would you do to keep an experienced driver for ten more years?

By Jena Williams

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published the results of a study: Occupational Highway Transportation Deaths Among Workers Aged ≥55 Years – United States, 2003-2010. The study found that on-the-job highway transportation death rates increased substantially at age 65, especially in transportation and warehousing industries and in transportation and material moving occupations.

It might seem that the finding of this study is, well, obvious. To be blunt, we tend to expect older workers to die more. But I would caution you to dig a little deeper because I think there is some important information to be gleaned here.

Consider that in the general population, these types of deaths only begin to increase substantially at age 75 years.  Why would deaths increase a decade earlier for workers?

There are many possible reasons and theories for this. I’ll present mine here and hope you’ll add yours in the comments.

The editor recommends interventions to benefit older drivers. (I would argue that these interventions would actually benefit all drivers!) The first is that we need to do a better job of selecting and adapting vehicles to accommodate drivers.

There are many other recommendations as well, such as less driving, less nighttime driving, etc., but I would like to explore the idea of adapting vehicles to accommodate drivers a little more.

Consider that before most people buy a personal vehicle, they sit in it and take it for test drive. Generally, people don’t buy a vehicle that isn’t comfortable to them. Unfortunately, comfort may not be a priority when many companies purchase their vehicles. Instead fuel economy, aerodynamics, and cost take the forefront. Plus, a company’s workforce comes in all shapes and sizes, so initially tailoring vehicles may seem nearly impossible.

One might argue that physical comfort doesn’t really have anything to do with crash-related deaths, but I would disagree. Fatigue is fatigue, whether brought on by long hours or awkward postures. It is still worth considering.

As the article states and we already know, “…older workers bring a wealth of skills and experience to the workplace…” I think we can agree that keeping an experienced worker for an additional ten years is valuable in a market with a declining labor pool.

What kind of investment are you willing to make in a skilled worker to keep them around for another ten years?  Would you improve the stairs into the cab? Would you add or improve handholds? Would you improve adjustability in the seat? Would you improve the location of the steering wheel? All of these can be associated with excess strain and fatigue on the body, potentially increasing crash risk.

And one more question, would you ask them what they need to make their job safer and easier?

These are just some of my thoughts. What are yours?

Link to full report: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6233a1.htm?s_cid=mm6233a1_e

And for drivers – always wear your seatbelt. Always.

Do you love your doc??

By Jena Williams

You may have heard the buzz about changes to DOT physicals, but there are a few topics that you might want to prepare for:

  • Is your favorite or company physician registered? If not, he or she will not be able to certify your drivers. It’s worth the time to make the call or check the registry to make sure. The link to the national registry with information on testing and training site is here: https://nationalregistry.fmcsa.dot.gov/NRPublicUI/home.seam
  • Also, keep in mind that DOT physicals are generally not covered by insurance. So plan to pay at the time of service.
  • And finally, have your drivers all self-certified?  All CDL holders must self-certify in person between January 30, 2012 and January 30, 2014 at your local drivers’ licensing office. This must be done in person.

National registry of certified medical examiners: https://nationalregistry.fmcsa.dot.gov/NRPublicUI/home.seam

Have you certified? Medical certificates and self-certification: http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/cdlmedicalcertificates.html

Hold it, hold it!!

By Jena Williams

Holding static positions all day is rough on the body. This holds true whether you are sitting at a computer, hunched over a keyboard or sitting behind the wheel of a big rig. The body is made to move and muscles need to move to increase circulation.

You may not be a fan, but stats are stats and according to an article in the Wall Street Journal by Kevin Clark, the 49ers have fewer injuries than other teams and they also put more emphasis on stretching than other teams.

If it’s good enough for the 49ers …

Getting started is the hard part

I don’t know about you, but I have difficulty coming up with stretches to do without a little guidance. To help drivers with this issue, the Saif Corporation developed a set of stretches for the professional truck driver.  They can all be done in and around the cab. Some can be done while you’re waiting your turn to deliver or load; others when you step out for a break or before heading down the road.

Exercise Tips for Truckers:

Trucker Exercises by Livestrong.com:
http://www.livestrong.com/article/332696-trucker-exercises/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/462361-exercises-that-truckers-can-do-in-their-vehicle/

Exercise Tips for the Long Haul Truck Driver: http://ezinearticles.com/?Exercise-Tips-For-the-Long-Haul-Truck-Driver&id=2419338

Truck Driver Fitness: http://www.prevention.com/fitness/strength-training/truck-driver-fitness

3 Truck Driver Goals You Should Set NOW: http://www.thehealthytrucker.net/3-truck-driver-exercise-goals/

*Photo from the Healthy Trucker: http://www.thehealthytrucker.net/

Healthy hearts, trucking and chocolate?!?

By Jena Williams

This week we celebrate Valentine’s Day. This month we pay special attention to heart health. Is it a coincidence that there is an overlap here? I don’t think so. Stick with me and I’ll explain why.

We’ll begin with Valentine’s Day, which, for those of you who need to know, is on the 14th. Ah, Valentine’s Day, although one of the sweetest  days of the year, it is also a day high in stress, devised many years ago presumably in an attempt by the card, candy, jewelry and floral industries to make those not in a relationship feel bad and those in one incredibly broke. Other theories include a lovesick jailbird, secret weddings and fertility rituals (you can read about those here: http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day.)

Next we’ll consider heart health since February is American Heart Month. Few would disagree that the heart (even a broken one) is a very necessary organ for human survival, so it seems reasonable to consider how best to care for it.  For truck drivers, staying healthy to be safe on the road is vital to the job, so taking care of your heart is actually an important part of your job as well.

This can be tricky when healthy foods are difficult to find on the road and sometimes a challenge to prepare, store and cook in a truck. Some helpful hints here: http://www.ehow.com/how_4906921_eat-healthy-truck-driver.html

There is a good reason to try though, because research shows that the average male truck driver lives 15 years less than the average American male.  Doesn’t seem quite fair or right for those who bring everything the rest of us need. So what can we do as an industry to turn this tide?

Well, we haven’t given up.  April 30-May 2, is the 5th Annual Healthy Trucking Summit of 2013 presented by the Healthy Trucking Association of America. Trucking industry representatives throughout the nation will meet to discuss the needs and concerns of the industry to improve the well-being of their most vital investment – their drivers.

Here’s a tidbit from the 2013 announcement:

Since its inception in 2009, the HTAA HEALTHY TRUCKING SUMMIT has become the undisputed premiere health and wellness event of the trucking industry… the HEALTHY TRUCKING SUMMIT [is] the most successful event of its kind and the trucking industry’s most important annual event for improving the health of our nation’s drivers.

There is still time to register for the event and to get involved in the process of improving the health of the entire trucking industry.

And now back to hearts and chocolate and why truckers should be interested.

At first I was confused as to why as a nation we chose in 1963 to recognize American Heart Month during February with the great deluge of chocolate that comes with that. But apparently someone must have suspected then what has been recently proven. Chocolate is good for your heart!!!! Now keep it in perspective, not all items labeled as “chocolate” truly fit the bill, but as a true chocolate connoisseur would agree, the heart healthy components are in the only chocolate worth human consumption. (Yes, I’m referring to the dark kind!)

Don’t try to argue it any other way! I’ve got this battle down. Dark chocolate = good for you. All other yucky chocolates = not so good for you. Therefore, dark = good. All other = bad. Thus dark chocolate is the only good chocolate. Whew!

Back to our story.

So really, it isn’t a surprise to me that Valentine’s Day, the holiday of the heart and the chocolate connoisseur would be celebrated during American Heart Month. I’m not a physician but I say, February 14th is the day to indulge in some yummy dark chocolate. If your sweetheart doesn’t supply it, just buy your own. 😉 Because, truck drivers, we appreciate you!

NOTE: Commentary on the palatable-ness of various forms of chocolate are the personal views of the author and do not necessary reflect the official views of TIRES. (Even if they should.)

How a trucking company changed to a healthier culture: http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2010/12/06/trucking-to-be-heart-healthy-in-new-ulm/

CDC’s February is Heart Awareness Month: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/HeartMonth/

Heart healthy properties of chocolate: http://www.allchocolate.com/health/basics/ (Dreams do come true!)

Heart Healthy Trucking Blog: http://gototruckdrivingschool.blogspot.com/2012/02/heart-healthy-trucking.html

HTAA Healthy Trucking Summit: http://healthytruckingsummit2013.com/