4 Principles for Healthy Driving

Have you been spending a lot of time on the road this summer? Remember that making healthy choices can make covering long distances easier and more enjoyable. If you aren’t careful, eating the kind of food you find within a mile of the interstate and spending an extended time in a seated position can be unhealthy. There are also ways to ensure that you get enough fresh air and sunlight and safely deal with the mundane nature of long-distance driving, which can dull your alertness. Fortunately, you only need to keep a few principles in mind in order to safely, and healthfully, enjoy your time on the road.

#1: Eat Well

It’s easy to succumb to the lure of road food. It tastes good, it’s right next to the interstate and you don’t even need to open your door! But beware, fast foods generally contain lots of salt, fat and sugar, which are all terrible for your health. Given the effort required to digest them they’ll also leave you feeling sluggish and sleepy once the initial burst of energy wears off. Plan ahead and find a convenient grocery store on your route; you’re much better served by eating complex carbohydrates and protein found in lean meat, vegetables and whole grains as they provide a much longer-lasting energy boost. You can often find healthy snacks like yogurt, nuts and whole fruits at most travel centers. Make water your beverage of choice and add a daily multivitamin to your first meal; now your nutrition as a whole has been optimized to allow you to not only arrive safely at your destination but to enjoy it as well.

#2: Stretch & Exercise

Sitting for extended periods of time, whether driving, at the office or just watching TV, has been linked to an increased risk of back problems and obesity. Being sedentary for long periods of time also slows and restricts your circulation, increasing the risk of blood clots and allowing fluid to accumulate in your legs. This fluid buildup is redistributed when you lie down at night, pooling near your airways and making it more likely that you’ll experience sleep apnea. Though the problem is serious, the solution is very simple. Breaking up your drive by stopping to stretch and take a brief walk every hour or two goes a long way towards reversing the damage done by extended sitting sessions. These short bouts of movement get your blood flowing, preserve muscle tone and release endorphins to elevate your mood. Once you reach your destination, throw in a more rigorous workout and you’ll be well on your way to meeting your body’s exercise needs.

#3: Get Outside

It’s important to make time for fresh air and sunlight as you drive. While recycled stale air is usually better than the exhaust fumes of the vehicles in front of you, your lungs will appreciate some clean fresh air. Visit a rest stop or take in a scenic view somewhere along your route and breathe deeply. Since vehicle glass filters out ultraviolet light, you’ll also be giving yourself some much-needed Vitamin D by soaking up the outdoor sun.

#4: Stay Alert

Those healthy snacks you brought along will benefit your long-term health while also limiting your risk of getting into an accident. Although sugars and fats can help you power through the last half hour of your drive, relying on them all day results in huge blood sugar spikes and drops that can keep you from being alert. The frequent stretches and walks you’ve worked into your itinerary will also invigorate your brain, helping you stay sharp and on the lookout for the mistakes of other, less healthy, drivers. Remember that everyone has a limit to the amount of time they can remain alert, and, if you think you’re too sleepy to drive, you probably are. The safest thing to do if you’re concerned about your ability to drive safely is to stop driving! Get a room for the night, or at the very least take a nap. Staying hydrated, listening to upbeat music and letting in some fresh air can also help break up the monotony of long-distance driving and bring you back to a state of alertness.

Having Trouble Sleeping?

These strategies will make your journey more relaxing and leave you feeling better and healthier as you enjoy your destination. If you think sleep issues may be impacting your ability to travel safely, speaking with a sleep professional or taking a sleep health risk assessment is a smart next step to determine your risk of having a sleep disorder. Should you have any questions or like any assistance on your path to better sleep, contact the FusionHealth Participant Resource Center at sleep@fusionhealth.com or 1-877-615-7257.

Sources:
FMCSA
AAA
Men’s Health
Trucker’s Report

Principles for Healthy Driving
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