Risks and Solutions for Working Drivers and Daily Commuters
Many people in modern American society rely on long daily commutes to and from work, or spend the better part of a workday in vehicles.
Some perform field services. Some make deliveries. Some serve as first responders. Some transport others by taxi or bus. Some truck goods across country for days at a time.
Routine travelers must cope daily with the physiological and psychological effects of long term driving.
Heavy traffic, time constraints, and aggressive or reckless drivers all add stress to a drive, not to mention the health risks that come along with sitting in the same place for an extended amount of time.
Studies have linked lengthy sitting with:
- Increased blood pressure;
- High blood sugar;
- Cardiovascular disease;
- Weight gain.
Extended driving can also induce high anxiety, causing panic attacks and abnormally angry behavior, better known as road rage.
It has been found that heavy exercise is not the solution for issues involving long term sitting. Rather, semi-continuous movement makes the greatest difference to one’s health.
Instead of being sedentary for hours at a time, followed by periodic intense work outs, it’s best to keep moving throughout each day. To maintain healthy circulation, stand when possible, take short walks, and adjust positions while seated.
Though routine physical movement can be tricky while driving, there are several simple ways to relax, uphold good circulation and manage stress while strapped into a vehicle.
Before the Drive:
Taking time to stretch along with light exercise to raise heart rate before a trip can better one’s drive from the get-go.
Stretching improves blood and oxygen flow, range of motion, and aids in relaxation. Research has demonstrated that it can be very beneficial, before getting in a vehicle, to stretch the parts of the body that experience the most strain during a drive: hips, legs, shoulders, arms, and neck.
Light exercise is extremely helpful to body and mind management before hitting a busy highway. Increased heart rate helps to lower blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol, and, like stretching, improves blood and oxygen flow in the body.
Any form of exercise releases hormones from the brain called endorphins. These hormones reduce the sensation of pain, conjointly affecting emotion by creating generally pleasant feelings. Accordingly one may start a day in a better mood and therefore have a better drive.
During the Drive
For the long distance driver, stopping every 100-120 miles to walk around and stretch greatly improves one’s physical well being. Doing this reduces one’s chances of having aneurysms and strokes while on the road.
Psychological and emotional stress while driving can be incredibly harmful for present-day men and women. Nevertheless, managing stress during unpredictable traffic challenges is very possible.
Practice deep breathing during difficult situations to calm the mind and relax the body. To relieve anxiety, breathe in through the nose slowly, hold the breath for a three second head count, then release through the mouth. Repeat once every couple of minutes as needed.
Listening to fast changing music to one’s taste is another way to lessen stress and remain focused on the road. Ergonomic studies have discovered that, when driving, slow changing music is in fact more stressful for the listener. An upbeat tune of any style, however, is a great way to remain sharp as well as unruffled while en route.
Avoiding wearing high heels while driving can be life changing. Doing this reduces back trouble due to walking on a heel worn down by constantly pushing the brake and accelerator pedals. Leg cramps can become an issue as a result of the awkward foot positioning. A more alarming potential accident causing risk is the heel point becoming stuck in the pedals, causing maneuvering to be difficult.
Another important factor in healthy driving is proper positioning. Seat, wheel, headrest, and mirrors can be adjusted to better support one’s back, and reduce joint strain.
Distractions on the road, and within the car, are risky to all motorists.
Drunk driving kills thousands every year, and texting while driving is, frighteningly, just as bad.
In the State of California it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle beyond or at .08 blood alcohol content. It is also illegal to read, send, or write text messages of any kind while driving in California.
WARNING: Do not ever use alcohol as a means to relieve stress while driving.
Intoxicated drivers are dangerous for everyone. Avoiding a tipsy ride home can determine the state of anyone’s life from today to tomorrow. Walking to a local restaurant or bar, assigning a designated driver, or simply keeping it at a maximum of one drink, will help keep everyone safe and happy.
Eliminating texting and calling while driving is also a good step in the direction of safe and healthy road experiences. Putting phones on silent, or airplane mode if possible, will help eradicate the temptation to respond to calls and texts.
Tail-gating and aggressive driving can be just as dangerous as texting or drinking and driving. Riding another driver’s bumper at 60mph, or combative driving, will not relieve stress or assist in reaching a destination faster. That style of driving is more likely to result in possibly fatal accidents or moving violation tickets, looming consequences that cause just more stress.
There are many uncomfortable, stressful, and undesirable situations that all drivers face everyday.
Trips can be less stressful, even pleasant, with a bit of deep breathing, stretching, good music, and reduced distraction.