Organised by WHO, World Health Day was a global health awareness day on 7th April. In honour of this day, we are looking at two increasingly common health threats to those working in the road haulage industry and how to combat them: obesity and stress.
Many studies throughout the years have shown that those in the road haulage industry are at a higher risk of developing obesity. The Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted a study on thousands of American truck drivers, and found that drivers were twice as likely to be obese than the rest of the working population, with 69% percent of participants being overweight. Although there are some cultural considerations to be taken into account, this does show that obesity seems to be a risk to haulage drivers, which brings with it an increased risk of further diseases such as diabetes and heart attacks.
This is most likely to be due to long periods of time spent sedentary in the cab, combined with limited options for healthy foods on the road. So, what can be done to combat this? You don’t need to run a marathon or sweat it out every night at a spin class – even 10 minutes of activity every day will help to move your muscles and joints, raise your metabolism and get your circulation pumping. If you have time, before your lunch take yourself for a quick stroll or perform some simple stretch exercises such as lunges, squats and these great full body stretches from Positive Health Wellness. If it’s not possible to get these exercises in over lunch or breaks, do them once you get home. It may be hard at first, as we all know how tired we feel when we walk through the front door after a long shift, but keep telling yourself that it’s only ten minutes, and your body will thank you.
Another great way to help curb the risk of obesity is to plan and prep your meals. Many truckers fall prey to irregular meal times and rely on unhealthy snacks such as crisps, chocolate bars and fast food to keep themselves going. By prepping your favourite home cooked meals, you can be sure that you’ve got wholesome and satisfying foods to keep you fuelled on the road – who can say no to homemade chilli con carne or chicken casserole? Finally, remember to keep a water bottle on you at all times – hydration is incredibly important.
Over the last decade, stress has become part and parcel of working in post-economic crash world – everyone’s stressed out, right? But it shouldn’t be this way – a small amount of stress in some situations is normal, but constant stress builds up in the body and has effects on both our physical and mental health.
Tight deadlines and financial situations can lead to a constant feeling of dread, anxiety and overwhelming fear of failure. In the past couple of years, more focus has been put on recognising stress and the damaging effects it has, as well as how it can be treated. One of the first steps which you can take to combat stress is to reach out to friends or family to let them know how you feel – this can seem tricky and you may feel vulnerable, but nothing adds on to stress more than holding it all in!
The healthy eating and exercise tips above help beat stress, and further simple steps like trying to get enough sleep will help. We understand that many drivers work on shifts and can be driving throughout the night and into the early hours of the morning, so it can be difficult to go to bed at the same time every night – but what you can do is to make sure that the sleep that you’re getting is good quality. The best way to do this is to not look at any screens an hour before you go to bed. Yes, that means putting your phone down, not sneaking a look at your tablet and turning off the TV! Use the hour before bed as a treat to yourself – light a candle and read a book, or take your time to relax as you prepare and cook your healthy meals for the next day.
A further step which can be taken if you find your stress levels are starting to affect your health and relationships is to talk to your company. Book an appointment with HR to discuss your issues – it is highly unlikely that anyone will judge you negatively; in fact, they will more than likely praise you for your courage in admitting that your current workload is having a negative impact.
We hope this brief insight into the common health risks facing haulage drivers will help raise awareness on how to deal with these issues. Remember, if you’re ever worried about your health, visit your GP.