Like desk workers, delivery drivers, couriers, and especially OTR truck drivers face certain health challenges due to the sedentary nature of their job. This may not apply as much to delivery drivers and couriers, as they tend to have multiple opportunities to stand, walk, and move during delivery – but still, most time is spent in a seated position on the road.
The other challenge of working on the road is the all too easy temptation of fast food and convenience food. Coupled with sitting most of the day, especially when working long hours during seasonal work, this can lead to several health issues including driver burnout and obesity. Truckers are 26% more at risk for diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart disease, according to the CDC.
Curious about the best health and wellness tips specifically for independent contractors who spend most of their time on the road, we rounded up a few tangible, no-nonsense tips that can be put into practice today.
1) Aim for QUALITY sleep.
Everybody is different. While most medical experts recommend a range of 6-9 hours of sleep for adults, the reality is, especially for truckers – that just doesn’t happen. Also, some people are physically and mentally OK with shorter sleep periods. Sleep is a main pillar of health. Without quality sleep, everything else in our lives suffers. So instead of setting a quantitative goal for sleep, focus on quality. A few ways to achieve quality sleep are:
- Reduce blue-light exposure in the evening by limiting screen time or wearing blue light blockers. This helps align your body’s circadian rhythms.
- Avoid stimulants later in the day. Have a cutoff time for consuming caffeine that works with your schedule. Ideally, this should be at least 8 hours before your bedtime.
- Skip the nightcap. Sure, one serving of alcohol can be enough to provide the feeling of relaxation, but any more than that affects your sleep. Even two drinks can negatively impact circadian rhythms and melatonin levels in the body.
2) Choose QUALITY nutrition over convenience.
When most of your time is spent driving, it’s tempting to hit the drive-thru or to buy convenient foods when you’re fueling up. While these kinds of food are OK in moderation, eating them every day, or even a few days a week, adds up – on your waistline and in cholesterol levels.
Prepping meals and cooking for yourself isn’t always feasible every day. But there are a few things you can do to make healthier choices while you’re on the go:
- Become an expert at reading food product labels. Unfortunately, in our society, Big Food companies get away with marketing murder when it comes to what they’re allowed to advertise on the front of packaged food. That’s why it’s important to flip the product over and read the fine print on the back – the ingredients list.
- In general, ingredients to avoid include added sugars (watch out for all the clever names they have now such as high fructose corn syrup, barley malt syrup, brown rice syrup, glucose, etc.), inflammatory oils (canola oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil), refined grains (enriched flour), and artificial colors – which are banned in other countries due to health concerns. Another rule of thumb is the longer the ingredients list, the more likely it is an unhealthy food. The first three ingredients are what make up most of the food. So make sure those top three are real, whole foods that you can identify.
- If time allows head to a grocery store instead of a gas station for food. There will be a much better selection of healthier options.
- Healthy snacks that travel well include nuts and seeds, fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, organic string cheese, yogurt, and jerky. Just double check those nutrition labels!
3) Stay hydrated.
Water or coconut water is optimal for hydration. Sports drinks contain lots of sugar and artificial colors, and energy drinks contain ingredients that can affect your sleep. Keep it simple with water and aim for at least half your body weight in ounces every day.
4) Mind your posture.
A quick posture check is something that benefits everyone, and it’s so easy you can even do it in your vehicle. At every red light, roll your shoulders back and down so they’re against the back of your seat. Place your head against your seat. Push your chin back so that your head, neck, and shoulders are aligned. If you’re giving yourself a double chin, you’re doing it right! Making this a habit will help prevent slouching, which strains the back and can even lead to poor circulation, lung function, and digestion.
5) Practice gratitude.
Good health is not only about what you do for your physical body, but what you do for your mind and your soul. Practicing gratitude is something everyone can do, and the practice can be quick and easy. This can be in the form of a journal, an app, or you can make it a habit to say aloud while you’re driving what you’re grateful for today.
There’s no one right way to do it, so find the way that feels best for you to reap incredible benefits including better sleep and better physical health.
6) Take advantage of your Openforce IC Benefits Portal.
The world needs more independent contractors like you, which is why maintaining good health is incredibly important. And while your health is 100% your own responsibility, it doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. Having the right tools and systems is important for your health journey. That’s why Openforce is proud to partner with several top-rated companies which put a variety of affordable, reduced-rate health, dental and wellness plans right at your fingertips. Be sure to login to your benefits portal today to get started with free quotes.
Good health and a healthy lifestyle are attainable for absolutely everyone, no matter what your profession is or what your schedule dictates. The key is to make small, sustainable changes that fit YOUR lifestyle. Overhauling your diet and exercising overnight is overwhelming and typically sets us up for failure. Embracing progress over perfection will yield better results over time. Practicing healthier choices and habits will only improve the quality of your life in every aspect, including your job.