The trucker lifestyle doesn’t exactly make it easy to exercise or eat right. You spend long hours on the road sitting in the same position. Food is often something you grab on the go. Sleeping is something you do in your cab or on lumpy hotel beds. And as for exercise, who has time? You’ve got delivery deadlines to meet.
Combine all these issues and you have a recipe for long-term health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates almost ninety percent of long haul truckers have at least one risk factor for chronic disease, with obesity, high blood pressure and smoking the most common risks.
It is possible to live a healthy lifestyle as a long haul trucker, but doing so requires some planning and commitment. Here’s a few tips to help you get started.
Pack Your Meals
Truck stop food is often delicious. It can also be greasy, fatty, and full of calories—calories that it’s difficult to burn off behind the wheel. Instead of stopping off for that burger and fries, pack your own meals in a cooler, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and healthy snacks. If the weather’s accommodating, have a picnic and take a short walk at a roadside turnoff before getting back into the cab.
Eat a Proper Breakfast
When you’re on the road, it’s tempting to grab whatever’s available for breakfast or to skip the meal altogether in favor of getting back on the road. Resist the temptation—breakfast, as innumerable mothers have said over the years, is the most important meal of the day. A healthy, high protein meal, such as eggs, yogurt, and cereal, provides you with energy and helps keep you alert.
Snack in the Cab
Snacking helps keep you well-fed on the road, but only if you choose the right food. Nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, and other healthy food can satisfy hunger while limiting your caloric intake.
Invest in a good quality, reusable water bottle and keep it on hand while you drive. Staying hydrated helps keep you alert while ensuring your, er, bodily functions run on schedule. Fruit juice, sodas, and coffee are full of empty calories, and can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. Plain water’s a much healthier choice.
Finding time to exercise on the road is possible, if you plan ahead. Just as you should make time for a healthy breakfast, schedule time for some pushups or a brisk walk. Ask your doctor for some stretches to help stay limber during long hauls, choose hotels with pools so you can do a few laps—any amount of exercise you can sneak into your schedule will help.
Get Enough Sleep
Again, this can seem impossible on a trucker’s schedule, but a good night’s sleep leaves you refreshed, more focused, and more energetic. Packing a good quality pillow can help, and some truckers use white noise machines to facilitate a good night’s sleep.
Whether you’re meeting up with some buddies for a movie, Skyping with the kids, or calling your spouse to say goodnight, socializing helps reduce stress, which in turn keeps you healthy. It’s too easy to feel isolated and alone on a long haul—even chatting on Facebook over breakfast can help you stay connected with other people.